The late-Friday announcement of $45 million in federal money going to Tasmanian forest contractors is a premeditated tactical retreat by the Gillard government, Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown said today.
“Not one hectare of Tasmania’s disputed wild forests has got National Park or World Heritage status and Tasmania’s upper house is committed to blocking such protection. But federal Minister for Forests, Joe Ludwig, is pouring millions more dollars into the logging industry as if the environmental dividend doesn’t matter,” Senator Brown said in Canberra.
“Meanwhile, Forestry Tasmania is determined to keep logging vital areas of the 430,000 hectares the agreement between Prime Minister Gillard and Premier Giddings guaranteed would be saved,” Senator Brown said.
• FOREST CONTRACTORS PACKAGE DELIVERS LONG-OVERDUE RELIEF
This Time Feds Must Ensure Full Compliance
Kim Booth MP
Greens Forestry Spokesperson
The Tasmanian Greens today welcomed the finalisation of the forest contractors’ assistance package as an important step forward in the implementation of the Forests Intergovernmental Agreement.
Greens Forestry spokesperson Kim Booth MP said the announcement would come as a huge relief to contractors who would otherwise be facing bankruptcy, and said there must now be a clear and transparent process for distributing the funds.
“It’s important for the Federal Government to now work quickly to distribute these funds, so that forest contractors can finally get relief and exit from a financially unviable business,” Mr Booth said.
“The Federal Government must work to ensure there is no repeat of the kind of rorting and maladministration that occurred the last time it tried to administer a bailout package for Tasmanian forest contractors.”
“We would hope that there are strengthened audit processes that would enable the claw back of payments from contractors who do not comply with the terms of the buyout, to ensure that contractors who receive payouts do in fact leave the industry permanently.”
“Now that this milestone has been reached, the next step will be to ensure the protection of 430,000 hectares of high conservation forest, as required by the IGA.”
“The Greens are disappointed that businesses which depended entirely on servicing forest contractors, such as mechanics, will not receive any relief under this package and we will continue to lobby on their behalf.”
“The agreement on an exit package for forest contractors is final confirmation of the position that the Greens have held from day one, which is that the forestry industry in Tasmania was never viable under the current model without taxpayer handouts to continually prop it up.”
“Let this be the last time that contractors and their families are hoodwinked into investing million dollars into an unviable industry, and the last time that taxpayers are forced to reach into their pockets to pay for the industry’s mistakes.”
• 7.30 Report: Inside the Chip Mill
Posted October 21, 2011 21:50:00
An exclusive tour inside the Triabunna Woodchip Mill with the Manager of Triabunna Investments, Alec Marr.
A transcript will be posted
by: Liz Cotton
From: The Australian
October 22, 2011 12:00AM
TWENTY years after it entered the forestry industry, Elders has begun selling its plantations in Queensland before a staged divestment of all the company’s forestry assets, totalling 50,000ha across the country.
The Australian-owned agribusiness giant has signed contracts for the sale of forestry land in central and northern Queensland to the value of $19 million.
Elders Brisbane agent John Burke says since starting an expressions-of-interest campaign for the company’s properties, about half have been sold. Twenty-four properties stretch from Miriam Vale to Proserpine along central Queensland’s coast and 28 are around Tully and Innisfail.
“We have received good inquiry on the properties, with some currently under negotiation,” he says.
“The majority of inquiry and sales has been to private Australian buyers and we are negotiating with some commercial interests.”
Burke says there has been offshore interest from Chinese government-owned COFCO and Asia’s leading agribusiness group, Wilmar International.
The two are in a bidding war for Proserpine Sugar Mill.
Wilmar owns Sucrogen (formerly CSR Sugar), while Tully Sugar was recently bought by COFCO. The expression of interest campaign on the north Queensland properties ends on October 28.
Much of the land purchased is expected to be planted with sugar cane, bananas or returned to beef grazing. The central Queensland properties are likely to be returned to grazing.
Elders investor relations general manager Don Murchland says the decision to sell the company’s forestry plantations in Queensland “has been on the cards for some time, following a series of unfortunate events”.
“Some of the trees were hit with a fungal infection a couple of years ago and, combined with the damage caused by Cyclone Yasi, the plantations became unviable and the decision was made to terminate them and sell the land,” he says.
Elders Forestry is one of Australia’s largest hardwood plantation forestry managers, with more than 170,000 plantation hectares under management across Australia, of which 50,000ha is owned outright.
The sale of plantations includes 20,000ha in central Queensland and 6000ha in northern Queensland, formerly planted with teak and red mahogany; blue gum plantations including 2500ha in the “green triangle” in South Australia’s southeast and southwest Victoria, 11,000ha in Esperance and 10,000ha in Albany, southwest Western Australia; as well as 1100ha of Indian sandalwood, grown in Kununurra’s fertile Ord River irrigation area in northern WA.
The fall of managed investment scheme sales, the high Australian dollar and uncertainty surrounding woodchip price negotiations with Japanese buyers following the tsunami, along with environmental damage to, and poor performance of, some assets has underpinned the decision by Elders to leave the forestry industry.
“The deterioration of the woodchip market meant that the case for us continuing was not what it once was and we want to achieve the best result for our investors,” Murchland says.
Australia’s commercial forestry sector continues to undergo a transformation on the back of the managed investment scheme blue gum boom and bust and the collapse of the two largest companies, Great Southern and Timbercorp, estimated as having 43 per cent of all managed investment scheme business in Australia. They fell within two months of each other in 2009. According to a recent Rural and Agribusiness Research report by Colliers International, about 269,000ha of freehold land once held by Great Southern sold this year to Canadian and Australian consortium Alberta Investment Management Fund and New Forests for $415m.
By area, the sale represents the largest private forestry estate transaction in Australia.