Image for Gunns ‘could announce mill partner Monday’. Enviro groups, Beekeepers back IGA

TIMBER company Gunns could be poised to announce a joint venture partner for its Bell Bay pulp mill as early as Monday.

Market analysts said yesterday that the second postponement by Gunns in two days of a promised detailed market update indicated that the company was preparing for a major announcement.

Today, in a further sign that the company is trying to progress the pulp mill project, it has called for nominations for its pulp mill “community liaison committee”.

On Wednesday, Gunns agreed to a $23 million state government payout for exiting native forest harvesting.

It said then it would provide a detailed update to the Australian Securities Exchange the next day. (On TT: Meanwhile, Gunns ‘expects to finalise ...’ What Calton Frame told Alex Schaap)

Yesterday it told the ASX that the company was continuing to assess the matters arising out of the agreement.

Gunns managing director Greg L’Estrange and Tasmanian Environment Protection Authority director Alex Schaap have been in Canberra this week talking to federal government bureaucrats.

An EPA spokeswoman said that Mr Schaap was still waiting on advice before making a decision on whether Gunns had met a permit condition requiring substantial commencement on the pulp mill.

Gunns’ earthworks contractor John Holland-Hazell Bros has continued with the $20 million site works.

Industry analyst Robert Eastment said that the further delay in either an announcement or a return to share trading suggested that the announcement would be a big one.

The company could have an announcement about a joint venture partner for the pulp mill, Mr Eastment said.

It is understood that such a partner is likely to come from one of the Scandinavian countries.

Finland, home country of Gunns pulp mill project director Timo Piilonen, is the most favoured.

Mr Piilonen built a pulp mill in Uruguay for his former Finnish employer, Metsa-Botnia.

Read more Alison Andrews in The Examiner HERE

Dave Groves: Born again ... HERE

• As Libs urge protest crackdown ...

BY ROSEMARY BOLGER
17 Sep, 2011 12:00 AM

PROTESTS at Gunns’ pulp mill site have prompted the state opposition to again call for a crackdown on illegal protesters.

Police used metal-cutting equipment to remove eight people who had locked themselves to earth-moving machinery with chains, thumb locks and wrist locks.

Nine people were arrested for trespass.

In May, the Liberal Party’s workplace relations spokesman Jeremy Rockliff introduced a bill making it an offence to approach a workplace with the intention of “hindering access for workers, or causing a fear, risk or hazard, or to damage equipment in a workplace”.

Offenders would face a maximum penalty of two years’ jail. “These protests jeopardise businesses that have already been hit hard by the signing of the disastrous forestry agreement, and they are damaging the forestry industry beyond repair,” Mr Rockliff said yesterday.

Read the rest HERE

• Market Watch, Wall St Journal:

Gunns (GNS) 20.5c (trading halt)

FOLLOWING the historic agreement to cease native-timber logging in return for $23m of taxpayer coin, the reformed timber lopper promised a briefing on Thursday on the financial implications.

Alas, the day unfolded without a cooee from down south, but late yesterday Gunns said it was still chewing over the issues and would lift its kimono on Monday. Given Gunns shares have been suspended since August 4, we guess another day or two doesn’t matter. Still, it would be nice to get clarity on just how the settlement - which was bigger than some pundits expected - affects the bottom line. Then there’s the issue of funding progress on the $2.8bn Bell Bay pulp mill, the real company maker (or breaker).
Gunns’ performance has been abysmal. It posted a $355m loss last year including a $88m write-down of its native forest rights. But it will be interesting to gauge investor reaction to Gunns’ future with a “social licence”.

If Gunns can adroitly manage the transition, there’s upside in terms of firming global pulp prices.

In the short term, Gunns will be weighed down by the fact that 65 per cent of its export volumes go to the subdued Japanese market.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/wealth/warehouse-group-is-an-oft-forgotten-pillar-of-the-retail-sector/story-e6frgac6-1226139215516

• Media Release - September 17, 2011
ENVIRONMENT GROUPS BACK FORESTS AGREEMENT

Forest protection, timber workers and logging contractors support unanimously backed

A statewide meeting of environment groups in Launceston today accepted a motion in support of the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement.  Environment Tasmania held their General Meeting at the Launceston Environment Centre today, where environment groups from across the State discussed the benefits of the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement.

In a motion passed, the groups:-

1.    Congratulated the State and Commonwealth governments on delivering an agreement that once implemented will deliver a landmark nature conservation outcome, a restructure of the timber industry and a regional development package to diversify Tasmania’s economy. 

2.    Urged both governments to ensure the full protection of high conservation value forests identified for protection as permanent national parks and reserves, along with an effective transition of commodity timber production out of the remainder of public native forests.

3.    Strongly supported the assistance provided through the agreement to timber workers, logging contractors and rural communities to help them through the industry restructure.

4.    Agreed that if implemented, the IGA will immediately protect approximately 430,000 hectares of important and unique native forests identified by environment groups, protect an additional 142,000 hectares of forests in the final legislative package, transition the logging industry away from public native forest into sustainable and socially acceptable plantations and create new opportunities for regional communities and economies through investment in new jobs and local economies.

5.    Urged both governments to reform Forestry Tasmania, which has: failed to end logging in the native forests earmarked for protection, continued to export whole logs of unprocessed native timber, and attempted to undermine the agreement through a publicly funded PR, media and advertising campaign.

6.    Urged both governments to implement the outstanding principles from the Statement of Principles including voluntary private land conservation, integrated catchment management, restoration and plantation reform.

“Environment Tasmania is Tasmania’s conservation council. We have 25 member groups and it is great that so many of our member groups have decided to back the Intergovernmental Agreement and are committed to securing a lasting solution to the forest debate in Tasmania” said Dr Phill Pullinger from Environment Tasmania.

Dr Phill Pullinger, Environment Tasmania Lesley Nicklason, Friends of the Blue Tier Andrew Lohrey, North East Tasmanian Land Trust

QUOTES

Tasmania’s regional environment groups have issued the following statements:

“We support the implementation of the Intergovernmental Agreement in full. This means important native forests including the Blue Tier, South Sister, Eastern Highlands, Wielangta, the Styx, Upper Florentine, Huon, Picton and Weld Valleys, the Tarkine, the Great Western Tiers, the North-East Highlands and Bruny Island stand to be protected”
Rob Blakers, Nature Photographers Tasmania.

“We support the implementation of the Intergovernmental Agreement which will protect important native forests including the northeast highlands national park which will protect the headwaters of 14 river systems, a majority of northeast Tasmania’s rivers”
Lesley Nicklason, Friends of the Blue Tier.

“This is a long-term agreement that begins with a process to verify the conservation values of these native forests and to determine to best reserve design to protect this globally-valuable forest.  However, an immediate halt on logging in these high conservation value areas is essential and overdue”
Jenny Cambers-Smith, West Wellington Protection Group.

“It is great that the habitats of some of Australia’s most endangered wildlife including the spotted-tailed quoll, the swift parrot, Tasmanian giant freshwater lobster and the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle will be protected in this agreement”
Louise Crossley, Spirit of Bruny. 

“Tasmania’s forests are some of the world’s most carbon dense forests, drawing down pollution from the atmosphere and storing it in trees, soil and branches. Protecting these forests will help reduce Tasmania’s and Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions”
Liz Johnstone, The Wilderness Society Tasmania.

“This Intergovernmental Agreement commits the Commonwealth Government to providing $7million each year in perpetuity to support the management of the additional reserves. The challenge will be to ensure that this money is used by the new managers of these areas, the Parks and Wildlife Service, to protect them from all significant forms of development so that they remain natural and wild for all Australians to enjoy”
Paul Smith, Tasmanian National Parks Association.

“This is a great agreement but it will require improvements in forest governance to make it work, the governments must reform Forestry Tasmania immediately.  Forestry Tasmania has for 40 years systematically destroyed wild landscapes across Tasmania and refused to listen to and take on board community concerns”
Andrew Lohrey, The North East Tasmanian Land Trust.

“Tasmania’s forests are a great natural assets and there will be new opportunities to create new jobs for Tasmanians and to grow our clean, green and clever economy.”
Frank Giles, Save Our Sister.

“There is a lot of work still to be done but this landmark agreement means many new forest areas are secure from logging, keeping millions of tonnes of stored carbon out of the atmosphere and ensuring the maintenance of wildlife habitat including that of the endangered Tasmanian devil”
Jo McRae from the Florentine Protection Society.

“We all rely on the biodiversity of our native forests for clean air and water.  With 13 500 known species of plants, animals and fungi, Tasmania is one of the most biodiverse islands in the world”
Edmund Pickering, Launceston Environment Centre.

“Tasmania’s forests are a natural asset that provide clean air and water. They are the lungs of our nation and deserve protection. This agreement offers the opportunity for the threatened and endangered species and their habitats in the Wielangta forests to be permanently protected”
Sally Meredith, Wild Wielangta.

“We expect that the Intergovernmental Agreement will protect the Tarkine from continued logging, however, we must see the legislation of new national parks without delay to remove the remaining threat from mining in this last disease free refuge of the Tasmanian devil.  The unique Tarkine Temperate Rainforest also contains some of the most significant Giant Tasmanian freshwater lobster and Tasmanian wedge-tailed Eagle habitat and it is vital it is protected as a part of this agreement”
Scott Jordan, Tarkine National Coalition.

“We have worked for years to see the projection of the unique forests of the Great Western Tiers. This agreement provides the opportunity to establish a Great Western Tiers National Park. This new National Park will enable new opportunities for nature based tourism in this region”
Rosemary Norwood, Friends of Jackeys Marsh.

“The Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental agreement provides the best opportunity in decades to protect important native forests all degrading activities.”
Brett Tooker, Peninsula Environment Network. 

For more information about Environment Tasmania and its members please visit http://www.et.org.au

• MEDIA RELEASE BY THE SAVEYOURLEATHERWOODHONEY ASSOCIATION INC.

THE EXECUTIVE OF THE SAVEYOURLEATHERWOODHONEY ASSOCIATION INC HAS MET TO CONSIDER THE FOREST RESERVE MAP PUBLISHED UNDER THE TERMS OF THE FOREST AGREEMENT.

THE ASSOCIATION AS THE LOBBY GROUP FOR THE TASMANIAN BEEKEEPERS SUPPORTS THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE AGREEMENT AND THEREBY THE MAP, ON THE BASIS THAT IT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO PRESERVE AT LEAST HALF OF THE LEATHERWOOD RESOURCE WHICH IS CURRENTLY UNDER THREAT FROM TIMBER HARVESTING.

THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RESERVES AS PUBLISHED IN THE MAP WILL GO A LONG WAY TOWARDS ENSURING THE CONTINUATION OF A VIABLE BEEKEEPING INDUSTRY IN THE SOUTH OF TASMANIA AND GIVES ADDED SECURITY TO THE INDUSTRY STATE WIDE.

REPRESENTATIONS ARE NOW BEING MADE TO THE ASSESSMENT PANEL HEADED BY PROF. JONATHAN WEST, TO TAKE THIS MATTER INTO ACCOUNT WHEN MAKING A DECISION AS TO THE CONSERVATION VALUE OF FOREST WHICH QUALIFIES TO BE PLACED IN RESERVATIONS UNDER THE FOREST AGREEMENT.

FOR TOO LONG THE BEEKEEPING INDUSTRY ON WHICH AT LEAST 60% OF OUR TASMANIAN GROWN FOOD SUPPLY DEPENDS, HAS BEEN SIDELINED IN FAVOUR OF TIMBER HARVESTING.

AS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED AN AGREEMENT HAS BEEN REACHED IN THE WEDGE BLOCK OF THE DERWENT DISTRICT FOR THE PRESERVATION OF MATURE LEATHERWOOD STANDS. THIS WAS AN IMPORTANT STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION BUT NEVERTHELESS A SMALL STEP.
HOWEVER ONLY AN AREA OF 10000HA OUT OF MORE THAN 500000HA OF STATE FOREST iN THE SOUTH, WAS AFFECTED BY THE AGREEMENT.

NEGOTIATION S AIMED AT PRESERVING THE RESOURCE IN OTHER LEATHERWOOD/BEEKEEPING AREAS, HAVE BEEN TAKING PLACE WITH FORESTRY TASMANIA OVER THE PAST 18 MONTHS, WITH MIXED RESULT AND CERTAINLY WITHOUT GIVING ANY CERTAINTY OR PERMANENCE.

THIS IS THE LAST (ONCE IN A LIFETIME), OPPORTUNITY TO PUT THE INDUSTRY ON A MORE PERMANENT AND SUSTAINABLE FOOTING.

THE BEEKEEPERS ARE WAITING WITH BOTH MUTED OPTIMISM AND BAITED BREATH.

First published: 2011-09-17 06:30 AM