Tasmanian Times


Invest in Tasmania – Bah!

Letter to …

Chair, Mr Rob de Fegely
The Board, Sustainable Timber Tasmania
Level 1, 99 Bathurst Street
Hobart, Tasmania 7000 

4th Oct 2018

Re: STTas ~ GPL Settlement – secretive and in bad faith

Dear Sir,

I was a grower investor in the Gunns Plantations MIS schemes. Some of my Project 2002 woodlots were established on state land at the Riverlea coup. These were Eucalypt Pulpwood and Veneer lots, for which a pruning premium was paid, and from which clearwood was to be extracted at final harvest.

Responses to my requests for information from STTas Engagement, Land Property, General Counsel and the Minister’s Chief of Staff have been wholly inadequate. Not only will they not disclose the settlement terms, but they will not disclose who signed the settlement and was ultimately accountable. I presume that must be the Board you chair.

My out-of-pocket investment was ~$7,000 /ha. These lots were performing above forecast, which was for yields of ~100m3/ha at thinning, ~500m3/ha at clearfell, and with a Mean Annual Increment of ~30m3/ha/pa. In 2018, I see that lots in the Riverlea plantation are being thinned and at current stumpage of ~$30/m3, are therefore returning net ~$3,000/ha. Further should the remaining timber achieve even $100/m3 at stump, final clearfell will return a further $50,000/ha. It should be noted that the fraction suitable for solid furniture returns may be as high as the $2500-$3,000/m3 cited in Pulp to priceless, UTAS News, July 2017.

Yet I received ~$100/ha from the Liquidators (PPB Advisory), after Forestry Tas / ST Tas refused to settle on the basis of establishment costs, let alone valuation of the asset. Whether PPB were negligent in allowing land rent to remain unpaid and GPL to default on the lease agreement, or not, FT/STTas was complicit in the very poor outcome and acted in bad faith throughout.

Seemingly, taking advantage of the situation, any sale by the liquidators prior to or after default was obstructed. Further, rather than then assume ownership of the forestry rights at valuation less outstanding rent, some paltry, secret settlement was reached at a figure vastly smaller than the $39,000,000 sought by the Liquidators – perhaps 14,000 ha @ $100/ha or $1.400,000 at best.

Even a small fraction of these plantations, ~one tenth at thinning harvest was sufficient to offset the accrued rent due plus costs, which is now being been returned many times over in the thinning of these same plantations. The MIS holdings appear to have been caught up with other GPL liabilities related to native forest offtake, without any due regard to their provenance and grower stake in the outcome.

Contrary to the governance principles espoused by this government business enterprise, and with the persistent secrecy surrounding the mediation and settlement with the Liquidators, the integrity of the STTas Board must be called into question.

At its early convenience, I request that the STTas Board publicly:

  1. Affirm its adherence to its principles of integrity
  2. Disclose which accountable party(s) endorsed the settlement with PPB
  3. Disclose the settlement figure and terms reached with PPB
  4. Justify the basis for the poor settlement

Apart from the perceived theft by government, for me the circumstances constitute a serious betrayal. Without the early foresight of 2002 growers to establish plantation timber for value-adding in Tasmania, the accounts of STTas would be so much worse; to take advantage of them is contemptuous.

Yours forsakenly,


Trevor Burdon
Invest in Tasmania – bah!

Trevor Burdon is a Business and IT Consultant, who most recently was decommissioning Telstra’s original Silver Lining cloud. Resident in Melbourne he expects to eventually return to Tasmania when he can see a clearer sky over a better government. Though critical of Gunns, he invested in early MIS schemes to protect heritage forest and provide resource for new value-added industry. On ASIC’s pathetic advice that he complain in Court, he appeared at the commencement of the Gunns Plantations Liquidation (Proceeding SCI Vic 2013 2095). Uniquely, as an individual grower investor, he has been in attendance ever since, alongside the properly-resourced Liquidators and Receivers counsel at the bar.

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  1. Trevor Burdon

    October 15, 2018 at 9:37 am

    No MJF, not lucky. You may want to read the article again.

    In this case a belligerent landlord stole a subletting tenant’s assets. GPL and Gunns had either rent paid up by growers, or 12% of the grower harvest, which was enough to cover outstanding rent. In effect they are only mimicking what Receivers did for the banks, with much of the rest on Gunns own land. In Liquidation PPB were the Responsible Entity for growers, yet have failed time and time again to negotiate with a fiduciary hat on. PPB and STTas/FT transacted in secret and kept their dealings confidential. (Misconduct complaints are lodged with ASIC.)

    With incredible irony, on the Country Hour of 20 Aug 18, Tasmania’s Tree Farmer of the Year talks of third-party landowners “inheriting” trees, and GBE Private Forests Tas CEO bemoans the lack of ongoing investment to re-establish plantations.

    Its a rotten culture of taking what you can get away with, and one where Tasmania’s government is happy to screw them and those investing in them.

    Hi William,

    Auditor, Director and Officer culpability should’ve been determined upfront. PPB as Administrators are not pursuing action on behalf of growers against them in any meaningful way, only for secured creditors.

    SC TaS 2015 1355 Gunns/others vs KPMG hearing is on today 15 Oct in Hobart.

    Thank you for the link. I am aware of Clive Palmer’s intention to seek an extension of the FSRC terms of reference to include insolvency practice. I have not heard back from him, or Labor’s Clare O’Neil for that matter. The Royal Commission does have my much earlier submission for a similar extension of terms.

  2. William Boeder

    October 7, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Hello again Trevor, pleased to see that you are still keeping a sharp eye on the no-goodniks in our Tasmanian State.
    There is considerable merit in the below-linked case where it is revealed that Clive Palmer is taking action against the firm of PPB Advisory.

    A little background here; PPB Advisory was the side-weapon chosen agency By Korda Mentha to attend to the asset stripping of Gunns Ltd and the consequent sale of those assets identified as tangible (Korda Mentha happen to be Australia’s most prominent Insolvency Firm.)

    This firm generally being offered with the 1st choice by Australia’s Big Banks, to liquidate whatever may be the assets of a major business bankruptcy, then to wind up the affairs of that company. Such was the fate of Gunns Ltd at that prior time.

    However, under the Australian Corporations Law Act 2001, I understand that the company’s directors
    can be pursued if a certain important matter can be satisfied by pursuing a director or the directors of that company.

    The law in this matter is seldom tested, there is no reason that this sequence of a debt matter cannot follow on from an insolvency firm in its disbursements cannot follow on from the failure by other means to satisfy a debt matter.
    After all, this is the reason for having purchased insurance and it set in place to provide a director with an indemnity from any legal claim.
    EG; in a matter of this kind there is no reason that a debtor cannot pursue the insurer of that director or directors.
    Interestingly the possible claim to the statute of limitations cannot apply when the matter pursued had arisen…but…that it had arisen from a criminal action.
    EG: in this case, there has been a criminal action against a director of Gunns Ltd that can be stated specifically to the crime of insider trading by a former director of Gunns Ltd.

    Also, there may be a means to challenge the improper methods or the practices employed by an insolvency firm in their disbursement of creditor payments resulting from the asset sales procedure.

    So, Trevor, I hope this commentary may revive your vigour to pursue your ‘ignored legal rights’ to claim your investment monies be returned on the basis that this is a matter still unmet.

    Another point to consider is the State of Tasmania is the parent body of all of its GBE’s through their stakeholder ministers.
    Therefore, no State is immune to the liabilities incurred by its stakeholder agencies or departments.
    Bear in mind that your claim against STT (a defacto State agency) so if doubt remains, STT has not been fully tested.
    One might seek an out of court settlement to have your matter resolved?

    I hope from within this comment a pathway opens to see your rights being satisfied.


  3. MJF

    October 5, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    You’re lucky you got anything at all Trevor. Your issues are with GPL and PBB, not STT as the landlord.
    Where’s Riverlea ? Never heard of that area.

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