WIill Gunns be gunning for Victoria’s forests?

The Tasmanian woodchipping company, Gunns, could be eyeing off Victoria’s forests. The controversial logging giant could be considering buying Victoria’s native forests as either a direct bidder or by buying from other bidders, under the Bracks Government’s new auction system. The Gunns logging empire has already spread to Western Australia.

Planned pulpmill hungry for woodchips
If the controversial Gunns pulpmill in Tasmania gets going (see article Gunns pulpmill fast-tracked), tree trunks from East Gippsland’s forests could be making up part of the 3.2 million tonnes of woodchips a year the company plans to feed into it. It would be cheaper for the export woodchipper Daishowa/Nippon at Eden, to sell and ship chips to northern Tasmania than to Japan or Korea. Many antiquated pulp mills in Japan are causing huge pollution problems in built up areas so an easy solution for them could be to move the problem to Tasmania and simply import the finished pulp from Gunns. (Pulping is the process that makes woodchips into mush before it’s turned into paper)

It’s not beyond possible that the Eden woodchip facility, the Gunns pulp mill and the Nippon pulp and paper company in Japan could all be working together to ensure their ongoing and easy access to our forests.

It doesn’t matter whose name is on the sides of the bulldozers or written on the licences though, the damage is the same. However, Gunns has a reputation for being a shameless political ‘heavy’. It would be a tragedy of massive proportions if Gunns becomes party to the destruction of Victoria’s forests.

Will VicForests up the price?
The recently established VicForests was set up by the Bracks Government to allow logging companies to tender for logs from our forests – this allows any logging interest from any place on Earth to bid for publicly owned forest logs. The industry has recently been complaining that China could outbid them (there is no reason to believe this will happen, although China makes a handy ‘boogie-man’ for xenophobics).

We are hopeful that the new auctioning system will raise the price to cover all costs associated with logging. This could see woodchip grade logs sold for more like $20 a tonne rather than the current 11c. We hope the new board of VicForests will be straight economic hard heads rather than political soft heads.

But if Mr Bracks can’t prevent more gluttonous woodchippers moving in to destroy Victoria’s native forests, our Premier should urgently protect large areas of heritage forests without delay.

Jill/Liz

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