THE Gunns 20 legal saga has finally come to an end with Gunns abandoning the remaining claims.

After five years of expensive legal wrangling, Gunns yesterday announced it was dropping the lawsuit against the remaining four defendants in the case.

“This is a commercial decision to avoid the need for a lengthy and expensive court case,” Gunns secretary Wayne Chapman said yesterday.

“The settlement involves the payment of a total of $155,088 towards the legal costs of the defendants and has the effect of disposing of all remaining claims in the litigation.”

It is the end of an era in Tasmania’s forestry wars and was hailed by environmentalists as a major win for free speech.

Gunns first lodged the writ in December 2004, suing 20 opponents, including the Wilderness Society and Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, for more than $6 million.

The defendants were accused of trespassing on Gunns land, damaging machinery and sullying the company’s reputation.

Part of the claim for damages arose from on-the-ground protests, including at Lucaston, south of Hobart, in 2003.

Gunns also claimed the protesters vilified the company to customers including shareholders and Japanese buyers with comments made in the media and slogans on posters.

Over the years Gunns reached settlements or dropped action against all but four of the defendants and that trial was due to start in the Supreme Court of Victoria next week.

The case has already cost Gunns millions.

It received a total of $25,000 in damages from the Wilderness Society and $15,000 from former Wilderness Society campaigner Geoff Law.

But Gunns has agreed to pay many of the defendants’ legal costs, including $350,000 to the Wilderness Society.

One of the remaining defendants, anti-logging activist Adam Burling, was delighted Gunns accepted their offer of a settlement.

“This is a complete victory for us and a humiliating backdown for Gunns,” Mr Burling said.

Mr Burling said that money would cover most of their legal fees, but did not make up for the “pain and anguish the case has caused for five years”.

The other three final defendants were Lou Geraghty, Brian Dimmick and the Huon Valley Environment Centre.

Gunns said it would not hesitate to continue to use the courts to protect its commercial interests and workers’ safety.

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