THE Triabunna woodchip mill was not the most critical component of the forestry agreement and its dormancy would not prevent the $276 million deal being acted on, Premier Lara Giddings said yesterday.
Questions about whether the mill would ever reopen are again being asked after negotiations between mill management and TasPorts over a wharf lease stalled.
The mill’s new manager, Alec Marr, and the state opposition have called on the government to intervene in the wharf lease negotiations.
Environment Minister David O’Byrne has resisted the prompting, saying it would be inappropriate to interfere with the commercial decisions of a government- owned business.
Mr Marr has reportedly said this shows the government’s lack of will to get the mill running, but yesterday it was the Premier questioning the commitment of the former head of the Wilderness Society.
Ms Giddings repeated claims that Mr Marr had turned down an offer from Tasports to lease the Triabunna wharf and had so far failed to advertise for an operator for the mill.
“I would have thought that with all the goodwill that’s been shown by both federal and state governments and by NGOs and industry stakeholders, Alec Marr, as a part of the wider NGO fraternity, would have followed through and show some goodwill by actually getting things under way,” she said.
Mr Marr has argued that he could not contract a mill operator until the wharf issue was sorted and that TasPort’s initial lease offer was unreasonable.
First published: 2011-10-23 09:22 AM
• No advice on $34.5m Gunns deal: Tony Burke
Matthew Denholm, Tasmania correspondent
From: The Australian
October 22, 2011
FEDERAL taxpayers paid $34.5m to Gunns to extinguish its rights to log Tasmania’s native forests without Canberra first seeking advice on whether the payment was legally required.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke told The Weekend Australian he had not sought legal advice on whether the payments were necessary to extinguish Gunns’ contractual rights.
“I didn’t seek any advice on that,” Mr Burke said. “Legal advice on that was sought by the Tasmanian government.”
The state Liberals claim the payment was not legally required because Gunns had already voluntarily handed back the contracts to harvest 210,000 cubic metres of sawlogs each year.
Tasmania’s Labor-Green government, which brokered the payment to Gunns, is refusing to release its own legal advice on the issue.
However, Premier Lara Giddings insists the advice backs its stance that the payment was needed to remove Gunns’ “residual rights” over the vital contracts.
Their surrender was key to the protection of 430,000ha of forests under the $276m federal-state forest peace deal signed by Julia Gillard in August.
However, Gunns had said it was leaving native forest logging regardless and documents obtained by the Liberals under state right-to-information laws show that on April 18 the company gave “formal . . . notice of termination” of the contracts.
Despite this, on September 15 deeds signed by the Tasmanian government granted $23m in funds provided by Canberra to Gunns and a further $11.5m—also federally sourced—to Forestry Tasmania.
Mr Burke said yesterday the money had been provided to the Tasmanian government to “facilitate” the peace deal, also known as the Intergovernmental Agreement on Forests.
Late yesterday, federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig and Tasmanian Deputy Premier Bryan Green announced an additional$45m voluntary exit package for Tasmanian forestry contractors. “This package will assist eligible contractor businesses to exit the native forest harvest, haulage and silvicultural contracting sectors,” he said.
• Anne: Launceston City Council Ball Motion Against Gunns Community Liaison Committee
Today (Oct 24th) at 1 pm, Jeremy Ball will have a motion for LCC to withdraw its membership of the Gunns’ Bell Bay Community Liaison Committee until such time as a motion is brought to open council.