It took a while ... but was Jarvis not right? Nearly a year ago Jarvis Cocker posted Forests: Jarvis reveals the deal on Tasmanian Times. Jarvis concluded: FT doesn’t escape unscathed. A condition of the industry bailout is a root and branch restructure of Forestry Tasmania, including an independent, comprehensive audit of that organisation’s land and biological assets. And yesterday: Strategic review of Forestry Tasmania
What Jarvis said:
Forests: Jarvis reveals the deal
06.08.10 3:06 pm
What is she frightened of? Julia, that is.
She’s visited Tasmania twice during the election campaign, and hasn’t uttered a peep about Labor’s long-awaited solution to the State’s timber industry woes.
Perhaps she remembers what happened to Latham when he announced what was, in hindsight, an insightful answer to a difficult problem. Perhaps she’s hoping to emulate Johnnie Howard; triumphantly marching through Launceston’s streets being groped by the eloquent and debonair Scott Maclean. Who knows. No doubt she will make another visit soon, but Jarvis is sick of waiting, and as he’s already privy to her upcoming announcement, he’s decided to share some of the key elements with TT’s readership.
The Labor machine suspects voters in Tassie’s marginal northern seats have a low opinion of both Gunns and Forestry Tasmania. Plenty of opinion polls confirm that trashing native forests is unpopular, and Forestry Tasmania’s reputation as an efficient custodian of the State’s forests is lower than lizard shit. So with plenty of (our taxes, mind you) money to throw about, Julia is about to come to the rescue of both the timber industry, and our forests.
The biggest beneficiary? Gunns. In a deal already signed behind closed doors, Labor will give Gunns between $100 and $200 million as compensation for surrendering a number of timber concessions and private roads, which will be handed back to the State. Gunns will then focus on existing plantations, and move almost entirely out of old-growth and regrowth forests.
Giving up those concessions will cost jobs, so there’s more money from the Canberra tree. Around $75 million in additional compensation will be available to those impacted by a reduction in native forest harvesting, both in assistance to leave the industry and retool for processing plantation hardwood.
FT doesn’t escape unscathed. A condition of the industry bailout is a root and branch restructure of Forestry Tasmania, including an independent, comprehensive audit of that organisation’s land and biological assets.
More to follow,
Yesterday: Strategic review of Forestry Tasmania
• Download specifications of FT’s Strategic Review: Strategic_Review_FT_abridged.doc
• Nick Clark, Mercury: Forestry set to face probe:
Extracts: Forestry also faces less access to native forests if negotiations between industry and conservationists result in an agreement.
And it has been affected by the strong Australian dollar causing the closure of woodchip export facilities because of a lack of sales.
In other issues affecting Forestry Tasmania:
It is owed about $35 million by its largest customer, Gunns.
It cut staff by 50 in January.
It is required by law to provide sawmillers with 300,000 cubic metres of sawlogs each year.
It has faced criticism over old-growth logging and particularly smoke pollution caused by regeneration burns.
• Matthew Denholm, Australian: Gunns woodchip mill sale rattles loggers
Gunns told The Weekend Australian a sale process was underway and that a bid would be chosen purely on a commercial basis.
“We are supportive of the Tasmanian forest industry, but the sale will be on a commercial basis,” a company spokesman said.
There is speculation in the timber industry and political circles that a tourism consortium has made a competitive bid for the waterfront site. Already a base for tourism boats, including trips to Maria Island, the site has a deep harbour potentially suitable for cruise ships.
Further speculation has been that wealthy philanthropist Jan Cameron had helped finance the bid, although Ms Cameron said yesterday she had no knowledge of any such bid.
Late yesterday, there were conflicting reports of a pending sale agreement with an industry player and of a sale to a tourism-focused consortium.
The Forest Industries Association of Tasmania said it was unsure of the situation, but confident that Gunns would consider the industry’s dependence on the mill when making a decision.
Association chief executive Terry Edwards said the loss of the Triabunna mill for tourism development would be a disaster for the entire timber industry.
“There would be no industry because if we can’t move the (wood) residues from harvesting and processing, we can neither harvest nor process,” Mr Edwards said. “We are enormously concerned but . . . I believe Gunns still has enough of the industry’s best interests at heart to make a decision in the best interests of the ongoing industry.”
A consortium of sawmillers has approached Gunns about purchasing the mill, while a private company is also understood to have made a bid. The mill is seen as so vital to the industry that the Tasmanian government has not ruled out helping to buy it to keep it in operation.
Speculation has centred on the state-owned Forestry Tasmania (FT) forgiving debt owed by Gunns in return for the mill.
The issue has created friction between Labor and the Greens, who share power in Tasmania.
The Weekend Australian can confirm that players in the environment movement floated the idea of a consortium to buy the Triabunna mill in order to shut it and develop the site for tourism.
However, several yesterday indicated they did not think the idea had progressed to the point of securing private capital. Estimates of the value of the mill and site range from $15 million to $30m.