Media reports for December 08

28 December Speaking some six months after his "line in the sand" statement on the pulp mill, Mr Bartlett said he didn't regret promising that Tasmanians would know before Christmas whether the $2 billion development would proceed. Mr Bartlett drew criticism for refusing to halt the controversial wood supply agreement between Gunns and Forestry Tasmania. The deal was extended this month, giving the company until the end of November 2010 to begin work on the mill. The Examiner

25 December Labor's ‘carbon sink’ legislation aims to convert a staggering 84 million acres of productive food producing agricultural land into tree plantations. That’s over 6,000 acres a day every year for the next 40 years. In the face of global food shortages this policy would dramatically increase food costs, destroy rural communities and take substantial amounts of water out of Australian river systems.

23 December Gunns' Director John E Gay sells 2,706,268 shares worth $2,173,674. Business Spectator

19 December The 2008 Crikey Arsehat Awards. It was 'The Valdez' that proved to be the real nail biter -- Gunns took the gong 'For an individual act of environmental vandalism', beating former PM John Howard out by just 0.6%.

18 December Drought and lower volumes have hit the historic Launceston wool sale. Last year one of Tasmania's prized superfine properties was converted to tree growing. Uplands, the 4218ha property near Deddington in the North, was converted to trees by Gunns Plantations Ltd. Wool sale volumes dropped from around 25,000 bales worth nearly $30 million to 11,300 bales being worth $20 million. There was concern from the brokers and the exporting community that if the volume of wool is not there it's hard to justify having the sale in Launceston. The Mercury

18 December The group Still Wild Still Threatened who brought Gunns' Triabunna woodchip mill to a standstill want an apology for being branded terrorists. Minister David Llewellyn called the activists industrial terrorists. "Mr Llewellyn's hand-wringing about the impacts of yesterday's action on contractors would be a lot more believable if he had supported the Greens' proposal for a financial assistance package instead of voting it down in Parliament recently," Greens leader Mr McKim said. The Mercury

16 December Forest activists in Tasmania have shut down operations at Gunns' woodchip mill at Triabunna on the state's east coast in response to the Federal Government's white paper on climate change. Warwick Jordan from Still Wild Still Threatened, says they are protesting at Gunns' leading role in producing carbon emissions from logging, burning and woodchipping old growth forests. ABC

16 December "Logging and burning of forests is Tasmania's biggest greenhouse gas emitter - bigger than all the states' transport systems put together" said Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown. The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has ignored the 20% or so of Australia's greenhouse emissions coming from logging and clearance of forests and woodlands as a huge low-cost opportunity to address climate change. Greens

10 December Australia is one of several nations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference pushing for international support to count harvested timber as a carbon sink. Analysts are starting to realise the impact this would have on the expansion of the forestry industry into farmland. Even without this change in the rules, the ABARE estimates forestry will expand by up to 39 million hectares. Weekly Times Now

9 December Gunns Ltd has been required to pay $91,186 in costs for its dropped charges against Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown, former Tasmanian Greens Leader Peg Putt and author and environmentalist Helen Gee. The three were defendants in the Gunns 20 case where in 2004, the day before it submitted plans for its pulp mill, Gunns sued 20 environmental organisations and individuals for some $6 million. Senator Brown described the case as a SLAPP writ (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation). The "case will end up costing Gunns a lot more and already its legal bills are between half and one million dollars", he said. The Greens

9 December Gunns expects its operating pre-tax profit for the first half of 2008/09 to exceed the result for the prior corresponding period but not by more than 15 per cent.

9 December A key property along the route of a proposed water pipeline to the Gunns planned pulp mill has been sold to a farming family that has expressed concerns about the project. Gunns has less than a month to complete Federal Government environmental approvals for the pulp mill, including the Lake Trevallyn to Bell Bay pipeline route but only five of the remaining 12 modules were "on the Minister's desk". The Mercury

6 December Turning tens of millions of hectares of prime agricultural land into carbon sink forests to fight climate change would dramatically increase food costs, destroy rural communities and take substantial amounts of water out of Australian river systems. The Greens and the Nationals combined this week with rural industry figures to condemn the Rudd Government's passing of laws to provide generous tax concessions for carbon sink forestry plantations. The Australian Farm Institute is concerned that the resulting reduction in farm output would have a significant impact on food prices and as well as major socio-economic impacts. The Australian

5 December Managed investment schemes have gone into meltdown. Timbercorp shares are just one cent above their all-time low, while MIS rival Great Southern's shares have slumped from $1.50 in May to 19c.  Environinvest is in the hands of receivers. Great Southern forecasted yields of 250 cubic metres a hectare in its offers to investors during the past decade, but actual yields are only 135-160 cubic metres a hectare. Accountant John Lawrence, said woodlots that cost investors in Great Southern, $3000 in 1998 were now worth just $2576. One industry analyst said some investors had simply had enough, rescinding ownership of their trees and leaving the MIS operator to cover the ongoing costs. The Weekly Times Now

4 December The Federal Government has forgone more than $6 billion in tax revenue to prop up managed investment schemes that are failing to deliver. Vast tracts of land were planted to blue gums, but the Government failed to audit these projects or ensure they were backed by decent business plans. The Australian Taxation Office simply ticked off on product rulings that allowed Timbercorp and Great Southern to charge establishment fees of $9000/ha, yet long-established timber companies quoted the cost at $1700 to $3000/ha. Now the MIS sector is struggling to deliver a decent return to shareholders. The Weekly Times Now

4 December Greens ask why the exclusive 20-year wood-supply agreement to provide 1.5 million tonnes of pulpwood a year for 20 years to Gunns, was not put out for competitive tender. Premier David Bartlet denied breaking his promise to end all Government support for the pulp mill. Forestry Tasmania defended its hefty loss of $38.5 million, attributed to a substantial down-writing of forest value of $74 million, based on the price received for wood over the past three years. The Mercury

4 December Forestry Tasmania insists it's getting a fair price for the wood promised to Gunns' proposed pulp mill, despite the supply deal never going to tender. The ABC

3 December The Tasmanian Greens accused Forestry Tasmania of evasion during Government Business Enterprise hearings. FT representatives avoided directly answering repeated questions about the wood supply agreement to Gunns and Premier David Bartlett’s backflip on the need for “sound commercial reasons”. The Greens

3 December Forestry unsure on Bartlett briefing on renewing the pulp mill wood supply agreement. Forestry's General Manager Bob Gordon could not remember when he briefed the premier and did not reveal the details of the briefing. Yahoo business

2 December Forestry Tasmania has granted Gunns Ltd a two-year extension to the wood supply agreement to provide 1.5 million tonnes of pulpwood a year for the next 20 years if the pulp mill gets off the ground. The extension was welcomed by Gunns, the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Liberals. Greens leader Nick McKim said "David Bartlett should be acting to heal the division in the community but instead he is acting to condemn the Tasmanian community to more division". Mr Bartlett would not comment. The Mercury

2 December The economic crisis appears to have killed off one of the most divisive trends in Australian agriculture: the growth of aggressively marketed, tax-effective investment schemes. From July this year, a tax office ruling has meant non-forestry schemes no longer attract the deduction, although this is being reviewed by Treasury and challenged in the Federal Court. The Australian