Tasmanian Times

Environment

Mill: the massive sleight of hand

Dr Warwick Raverty

Alex (#17), You are right on the money, absolutely correct in every respect – and I say that as someone who saw Gunns’ inadequacies from the inside for all but the last month of the RPDC Assessment. Cowboys are exactly what I observed and it is that primarily that caused me to change my view from one of complete neutrality in February 2006 to the statement that I made on 14th March 2008, ‘With great reluctance, I have come to the view that Gunns are not a fit company to operate a kraft pulp mill anywhere, let alone in the Tamar. Unfortunately, with hindsight, all the evidence before me now strongly indicates that Hampshire was never a realistic option, because even in the heady days of low interest rates the whole project hung on the ability to continue exporting plantation woodchips out of Burnie at well over the $36 per bone dry tonne quoted in the press, while ripping 80% of the mill feedstock out of the island’s native forests at Forestry Tasmania’s FOI revealed prices between $8 – $13 per bone dry tonne. I strongly suspect that this massive sleight of hand was necessary to maintain cash flow during the construction and commissioning phases of the mill. In my time on the RPDC Assessment Panel the question of how much wood would continue to be exported was put frequently to Gunns, but was never answered. One of the main reasons why they withdrew unilaterally on 14th March 2007. I suspect Gunns realised that Christopher Wright was going to continue asking the same probing questions that Julian Green and Beca AMEC had asked. I continue to hope fervently that there is no-one silly enough to lend them the money. Read more, Comment here

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