Media reports January 2011

28 January 2011 Gunns appears to be quietly preparing for a start on its controversial Bell Bay pulp mill early this year. The company denied yesterday that it was involved in selling off its Tasmanian plantations. A company spokesman said that Gunns was not negotiating on the sale of its plantations. But it is believed that the company is keen to sell its plantations and lease them back to use the money for clearing more of its debt. It would also mean that it would not have the ongoing expense of maintaining the plantations while it waits to make a start on the pulp mill. The Gunns spokesman also declined to comment on whether finance had been locked in before Christmas for mill construction. "When we are ready to go, we are ready to go," he said. Gunns started to shed jobs and sell or shut surplus infrastructure late last year. Gunns managing director Greg L'Estrange confirmed at the company's annual general meeting in November that woodchip operations around the state would close. Its wine, retail and other agricultural interests had been sold earlier in the year. Mr L'Estrange told shareholders Gunns was confident that it was close to securing a joint venture partner for the pulp mill. But at that stage he was depending on a sizeable government compensation package for the company pulling out of native forest harvesting as part of Tasmania's forestry industry reforms. That looks less like happening since the Queensland floods. A decision on federal government permits, which depended on more than 12 months of Bass Strait hydrodynamic testing and analysis, is expected in the next few weeks. Examiner

25 January 2011 Tasmania's new Premier has not ruled out the Government acting as a guarantor for the Gunns pulp mill project. Lara Giddings says the Government has learnt from its previous 'mistakes' in trying to get the controversial Bell Bay pulp mill project approved. Ms Giddings told ABC Local Radio the Government supports the development but said she had not been personally approached by Gunns. "We've had no requests as far as I understand from Gunns for that," she said. "I haven't had any, in that sense, that I've had with Gunns but what I would say is we do need development in this state." "We have a number of businesses in the Launceston area that were all geared up and ready to be there to help build it and to supply it and so on. "There are a lot of disappointed businesses around that area that it hasn't already happened." ABC

18 January 2011 A Forest Stewardship Council audit team will be in Tasmania in April to assess Gunns Ltd for certification. A spokesman for the Launceston-based timber company said yesterday that contrary to claims by the Tasmanian Greens, Gunns was preparing for the April audit. Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth said at the end of last week that Gunns had recently pulled out of the FSC certification for controlled wood sourced from Tasmania. Mr Booth said that the withdrawal indicated that the attempts to provide a fully FSC- certified feedstock for the company's proposed Bell Bay pulp mill were faltering. The Gunns' spokesman said that Mr Booth's comments were "completely incorrect". He said that the audit team was due to assess the company's Tasmanian operations in a couple of months after already completing audits of its West Australian operations and in the so-called Green triangle area of Victoria and South Australia. A briefing paper from the Rainforest Alliance Smartwood program, which conducts the audits, says that the company's pre- assessment for certification had been completed and Gunns staff were now working on closing the identified gaps. Once completed, Gunns would then apply for a FSC forest management main evaluation. Examiner

16 January 2011 Gunns has denied claims that it could still move its pulp mill project interstate. Unnamed sources made the claims on Friday after the Tasmanian timber company retrenched four senior members of its pulp mill team. A Gunns spokesman said yesterday that those claims were incorrect. "The company is committed to the Bell Bay location," he said. "Any suggestion that the mill location would be moved is just incorrect, wild pub talk." The spokesman said Gunns had retrenched four staff, including general manager and executive director Les Baker, because their work on securing necessary approvals for the $2.5 billion project had concluded. "Basically, the assessment phase (of the project) is now done and we're moving into the construction phase," the spokesman said. He said the company was continuing to negotiate with possible joint-venture partners for the mill and construction would begin upon financial close. On Friday, Mr Baker and Gunns managing director Greg L'Estrange declined to comment on the matter. Examiner

15 January 2011 Gunns has retrenched four of its senior pulp mill personnel but insists the $2.5 billion project is still on track. The departures come as Gunns seeks a joint-venture partner for the mill, after the pullout of Swedish company Sodra last year. A Gunns spokesman said the changes had come as the project moved from the assessment stage to the construction phase. The company appointed a new pulp mill project director, Timo Piilonen, last year. Long-serving general manager of the Bell Bay pulp mill project Les Baker is one of the major departures. Others believed to have been retrenched are engineering and construction manager Sven Lundgren, pulp mill project commercial manager Neville Smith, and former commercial manager John Germano. Mr Lundgren came from Sweden in 2005, saying "we have the best expertise from around the world to design, engineer and construct this mill". He said he had been working with pulp mill design teams for 30 years in Europe, Japan, Brazil, Chile and the Asia-Pacific. Gunns says the project has a "project ready" status and minimal cost is being incurred to maintain that position. The company has so far spent more than $200 million on the project. Gunns is expected to close its Long Reach woodchip mill on March 31. Mercury

14 January 2011 (Extracts from ABC documentary) Today we take a closer look at the peace deal designed to settle the Tasmanian forestry debate. After 30 years of hostility environmentalists and loggers have finally smoked the peace pipe. They've done a deal which should end large scale native forest logging. But as this documentary will reveal, the biggest player in the Tasmanian timber industry, Gunns, has threatened to renege on its promise if the peace deal falls through and it can't get finance to build Australia's largest pulp mill in northern Tasmania. And the war in Tasmania's forests will be back where it started. Overseas investors are looking for Gunns to get community support for the pulp mill and they also want it to be plantation based. Paul Oosting from the Wilderness Society has, and although he's been hired to campaign against Gunns Pulp Mill, his line appears to be softening. Paul Oosting said, 'Well look we want to get the dynamic right for any pulp mill in Tasmania. We see it as one of the options for the plantation processing industries which is what's stated in the statement of principles that there is support for the plantation sector and that a pulp mill is one of those options.' Peter Whish-Wilson, (Greens candidate and wine grower) 'I'd really like to see a resolution on forestry conflict in Tasmania. But if it means that the Tamar Valley is going to be sacrificed at the altar of some high conservation coups I don't think it will last - no. I think it's a train wreck waiting to happen.' ABC

14 January 2011 The Tasmanian Greens described the sacking of the General Manager of Gunns? pulp mill project team, and a number of other project team members, as another nail in the coffin for the doomed project. Greens Forests spokesperson Kim Booth MP said Gunns? excuse for sacking Mr Les Baker and other project team members, that the mill assessment has ended and the company is now moving into the construction phase, is yet another lie from this serially dishonest company as the proposed mill still does not have a water pipeline, or a joint venture partner, or sufficient finance, or federal government permission to dump 64,000 tonnes of effluent daily into Bass Strait. Mr Booth also said that Gunns Limited recently pulled out of a assessment process to receive Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for controlled wood sourced from Tasmania, which also indicates that attempts to provide a fully FSC-certified feedstock for the proposed mill are also faltering. 'The people of the Tamar Valley are sick of Gunns? lies and deceptions over the proposed mill, and this latest bit of spin from Gunns about the reasons for sacking the manager of the pulp mill project team is yet more proof that the company cannot be trusted, and that the mill proposal is dead in the water', said Mr Booth. 'The assessment of this mill proposal is far from over and any claim by Gunns to the contrary is just another lie from this serially dishonest company'. The fact that Gunns have recently pulled out of an assessment process for FSC certification of controlled wood sourced from Tasmania, and that virtually none of the plantations established after 1994 will qualify for FSC certification means that the writing is on the wall for a mill fed only by FSC-certified feedstock, and this means no joint venture partner, and no mill. 'Les Baker was a senior executive of Gunns and was previously responsible for far more than just the proposed pulp mill, and his exit from the company is a sign of things to come.' 'The virtual dismemberment of the pulp mill project team in the dead of night is a cost-cutting exercise from a company that is haemorrhaging funds due to excessive debt and a failed business model, and is just another nail in the coffin for this doomed project,' said Mr Booth. Tasmanian Greens

14 January 2011 Gunns has sacked a senior executive who was running the pulp mill project. A Gunns spokesman has confirmed several people involved with the company's $2.3 billion pulp mill have been made redundant. The managers were involved in the assessment process and are no longer required as the company moves into the construction phase. The pulp mill's former general manager and a long-time Gunns employee, Les Baker, is one of the executives leaving the company. Last year Gunns reported Mr Baker's salary and entitlements totalled $473,000. Mr Baker has declined to comment. Gunns is yet to announce a joint venture partner for the pulp mill. In November, the company chairman Chris Newman said that finance for the mill was on track. ABC

11 January 2011 Chairman of Gunns, Chris Newman said that he would like to remain on the board until the opening of the proposed Bell Bay pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, a date that is not yet known given that a joint venture partner is still to be confirmed. Mr Newman was installed as chairman of the Tasmanian timber group after former chairman John Gay was pushed out by investors about six months ago. FarmOnline

7 January 2011 Pulp mill company Metsä-Botnia has flatly denied that it is a partner in the Tasmanian market pulp mill planned by Australian timber giant Gunns. RISI