CONTROVERSIAL plans are being drawn up for a new Tasmanian woodchip mill - potentially exporting from Hobart’s waterfront - to side-step the mill owned by conservation-minded entrepreneurs Jan Cameron and Graeme Wood.
The plans, confirmed to The Weekend Australian by Premier Lara Giddings, have potentially serious implications for the forest peace process and the state’s Labor-Greens alliance.
Ms Giddings said she did not believe Ms Cameron and Mr Wood were “fair dinkum” about reopening their mothballed Triabunna woodchip mill, on the state’s east coast.
The mill - purchased by Ms Cameron and Mr Wood from Gunns this year - is seen as vital to the profitability of the entire timber industry in southern Tasmania, as it provides income from wood residues from sawmilling.
Ms Giddings said that, although no concrete proposal was ready to go to a planning process, options for another woodchip mill and export wharf facility were being considered.
“I don’t have a lot of confidence that Triabunna will reopen,” she told The Weekend Australian.
“I don’t really think that (environmentalist-turned-mill manager) Alec Marr wants to see it open, nor that the owners of Triabunna Investments want to see it open.
“And even if it does open up, it’s only likely to be for five years, so we need to look at an alternative.
“It would mean that you need a chipper somewhere and then you need an export location somewhere.”
The Premier would not say which sites were under consideration, nor confirm or deny reports that the Hobart waterfront - increasingly a tourism and arts mecca - was one of them. “I don’t particularly want to go speculating about those locations when some of them will never ever eventuate - there’s no point alarming communities,” Ms Giddings said.
The revelations provoked anger from Ms Cameron, the founder of the Kathmandu outdoor goods chain and an ALP donor.
She confirmed that she and Mr Wood, a major Greens donor, would not want to operate the Triabunna mill for more than five years, but insisted they were “serious” about doing so for a transitional period.
Ms Cameron questioned the state’s good faith, given its stalling on a wharf lease to the Triabunna facility and now its search for an alternative.
“How can the government seriously be considering pouring taxpayer’s money into building a new woodchip mill (costing) circa $25 million when they are cutting health and education budgets?” she said.
“Such an investment will not return a cent to Tasmanian taxpayers. Carbon credits will return $25m to $50m per annum.”
She added: “This will spell the end of the intergovernmental agreement (forestry peace deal) and federal funds for regional development in Tasmania.”