By TONY FOSTER
YOU will see that on home page of Brighton Community News that Brighton Council has joined with 10 other councils to demand action on what we see as an imbalance in decision-making affecting the State’s resource industries.
The 11 councils have joined together because we believe recent decisions and actions involving forestry and other resource industries are impacting severely on the economy of our regional communities. We are very concerned that anti-development activists, emboldened by their success in halting development, particularly in forestry, are moving onto other industry sectors, further threatening the viability of regional Tasmania.For a municipality like Brighton, the collapse of the forestry industry has had and will have significant impacts on local people who are employed in and providing services to this sector.
While we don’t have any forests as such in our municipality, our people depend on the industry as it provides employment of our people both in processing and maintenance of equipment as well as a range of other service areas.
So that is why we as a Council, have decided we need to take a stand with other like-minded councils to fight for our communities, whether it is Brighton or any of the other smaller communities that are being impacted by these government decisions.
Along with Brighton, our colleagues in the Central Highlands, Derwent Valley, Tasman, Circular Head, Dorset, Glamorgan-Spring Bay, Southern Midlands and Huon Valley have launched this campaign for our respective communities to be given greater consideration and for Councils and communities to be involved in decisions that impact directly on them and the economies of their regions. Other Councils have been consulted and are expected to join the campaign.
As a collective, we are extremely concerned at recent decisions, particularly related to the forest industry, but also regarding fishing and mining and their impact on regional communities.
We believe local government, and particularly regional communities, have been excluded from negotiations, decision-making and even any consideration.
One clear example is the Intergovernmental Agreement on Tasmanian Forestry (IGA) where regional communities have been ignored. The State Government’s proposed split of Forestry Tasmania has simply compounded the problem. The impact on regional communities is being lost while Federal and State Government’s engage in power politics.
As I outlined earlier, the demise of the forest industry is bringing serious consequences for regional communities like Brighton. Incomes are being slashed and this is flowing onto families, small businesses and the community in general. The other impacts on local government are in the form of lost rates, the costs of road and bridge maintenance currently borne by Forestry Tasmania and firefighting risks which I can assure you will hit councils hard.
Yet the decision-makers in government don’t seem to care.
Our message to government is that we want real, sustainable jobs in regional communities, not token employment schemes and not more bureaucrats in cities.
In rates alone, with the proposed split of Forestry Tasmania with forests managed by a statutory authority or placed in reserves, the total reduction in revenue for Councils could be as much as $3 million a year.
As a group we are concerned that forestry has been the first battle however it is a political war that threatens not only regional communities and their councils, but also Tasmania’s very economic wellbeing and ability to provide employment and services for its people.
The anti-development lobby has been emboldened by its success in stopping forestry and these same vested interests are now turning on mining. Other targets are agriculture, aquaculture and even the construction of tourist roads and facilities adjacent to national parks and reserves and we are concerned that our governments roll over when confronted by activists.
The impact of successful campaigns opposing much-needed development will be devastating for regional Tasmania.
We strongly believe it is time for local communities, through elected councils, to stand up and fight for greater consideration and more balanced outcomes from the Government decisions that are impacting directly on them.
Our campaign is also demonstrating the importance of smaller councils to their communities. You will see that none of the larger councils appear to be interested or concerned with what is going on. The smaller councils have been prepared to take this action because we are at the coalface and understand the ramifications of what is happening to our communities. In a nutshell, it shows the importance of regional representation through local councils. And now that regional representation is more important than it has ever been.