Last week the first clunky attempt to load woodchips – minus wharf and conveyor belt began. It was incredibly slow and took 8 chip trucks about 45 minutes each to load, drive around to the nearby navy wharf and unload to a makeshift conveyor belt. This constant convoy over 5 days isn’t the most cost effective way to load woodchips. This is about 7 times less efficient than when they were filling ship hulls at the chip mill’s (now damaged) loading facilities. This is not a long-term viable solution – and the rebuilding of the jetty looks pretty remote.
The Tathra public wharf was also damaged during the storm but has been denied an insurance payout for the repairs needed. It’s assumed the chipmill would be in the same boat (pardon pun) with its insurance company.
The SE NSW campaign group Chipstop, believes the cost of these clumsy loading arrangements and a replacement of the old jetty and loader are prohibitive. They are demanding that no public money be spent on subsidising the loading of woodchips or rebuilding their chipmill’s jetty.
Having to use smaller container ships to fit along the navy jetty also means that cross-contamination is a real issue. Chips would be a backload for smaller ships carrying materials like bauxite to southern ports, which could stain the load (a disaster in the paper-making industry).
Despite the storm damage, the chipmill continues to receive logs and to woodchip them, adding to the mountainous piles onshore. Chipstop believes this demonstrates the mill owners’ confidence in getting some kind of tax-payer funded bailout.