After 3 decades of forest destruction, there is now a strong campaign to close down the export woodchip mill at Eden and move the whole show to a plantation industry based near Portland in Western Victoria. This was presented to the ALP in the lead up to the election as a winning solution.
For the past 30 years the 100% owned Japanese export woodchip mill at Eden NSW (known as Daishowa until last year when it changed its name to South East Fibre Exports – SEFE) has destroyed vast forested areas of this corner of Australia. The seven story high pile of woodchips is replenished daily by 130 truck loads of trees going into the mills gates. Every so often a huge woodchip ship docks and loads thousands of tonnes into its hold, then sails back to the pulp and paper companies in Japan.
The plan to shift SEFE/Daishowa was hatched by the Eden-Monaro Greens in the lead up to the last Federal election. This is supported by the Gippsland Greens as well as state and many regional conservation groups.
The seat of Eden-Monaro and the seat of Gippsland were both sitting on about a 2% margin. Greens preferences were seen as pivotal in determining who won – especially in the NSW seat. This seat is also the epicentre of the woodchipping problem in SE Australia.
On the other side of Victoria, the Portland area has enormous hardwood plantation resources close to its port, with no secure buyers; easily enough to supply the volumes exported annually.
SEFE regards native forest hardwood as low quality, preferring plantation wood. Plantation wood is young, predictable, white, uniform and easy to process (less bleaching etc).
SEFE is sitting on extremely valuable real estate in Twofold Bay, which, when sold, would help defray the cost of moving.
Most of SEFE’s plant and equipment is portable. Apart from the wharf, it can be dismantled and relocated to a new site.
Governments could assist this move by offering tax incentives – such as accelerated depreciation, removal expenses or a tax holiday on initial post-relocation profits for a limited period. The local shire is supportive of the move and any jobs it might provide in western Victoria.
The cost of all this depends on the nature and extent of assistance. Useful incentives could be provided with any amounts between $2m and $8m. This is extremely cheap compared to the annual subsidies received from the public and endless assistance packages given to this industry over the past three decades.
This plan will continue to be pushed by the Greens and environment groups.
Jill / Gerry Watt, Eden-Monaro Greens