Media stories February 09

27 February Gunns Ltd says it is likely to sign a joint venture deal for its planned pulp mill by the end of April 2009. Gunns has already spent $125 million on the project. Half-yearly after-tax profit to December 31 2008 was $33.5 million, total liabilities are $1.29 billion and senior bank debt of $400 million. Gunns shares fell to a record low of 63.5c a share giving a market capitalisation of just $460 million. Gunns claims net assets of $2.6 billion. The Mercury

22 February A chlorine dioxide leak at a Mackenzie pulp mill (Canada) recently taken over by the provincial government to avoid an environmental disaster forced 35 people out of their homes and workplaces on Sunday. Chlorine dioxide was leaking from a valve in one of three fibreglass tanks at the Worthington mill at the rate of about two gallons per minute. Used to bleach wood-pulp, liquid chlorine dioxide is one of the most dangerous chemicals stored at the pulp mill. When concentrated chlorine dioxide is exposed to air and light, it decomposes into chlorine gas. Vancouver Sun

10 February Forest contractors are preparing for a two week shutdown at Gunns' woodchip mills in northern and eastern Tasmania. The global financial crisis has reduced demand for pulp wood. ABC

10 February Gunns will continue seeking finance for its $2.2 billion pulp mill while it conducts 18 months of hydrodynamic modelling. Gunns said it was confident the modelling would find that the water quality objectives in Bass Strait could be met regardless of "what the currents of Bass Strait were doing". Mercury

8 February The Director of Public Prosecutions is considering whether to lay charges against the group Still Wild Still Threatened who disrupted operations at Gunns' Triabunna woodchip mill in December 09. Gunns has already begun legal action against the group to recoup damages. The group filed a defence to their actions arguing that the protest was "in the course of communicating information about government and political matters and was reasonable in all of the circumstances". They have also lodged a counter- claim against Gunns accusing Gunns of breaching the Trade Practices Act by making misleading or deceptive statements about the company's proposed $2 billion pulp mill. The Examiner

4 February Could land become cheap as woodchips? Over the coming years, as the blue gum harvest takes place, uncertainty surrounds the future of close to 500,000 hectares under MIS forestry in southern Australia. Timbercorp is in the process of selling 50,000 hectares planted to blue gums to reduce debt, roughly half its timber estate. If large tracts of land come onto the market at once it could have major impacts on land values in the regions affected across southern Australia. Port of Portland management has confirmed four hardwood chip shipments due to sail to Japan have now been cancelled since November 09.

4 February Gunns' is again under fire after it said woodchip sales to Japan were falling. Gunns is particularly reliant on the Japanese economy and sells about 80 per cent of its hardwood chips to Japan. Investors bailed out of the stock, sending it down more than 10 per cent. Gunns is seeking to raise $15 million for working capital by unsecured notes. "I don't know anyone in the business community who believes Gunns can get this project off the ground," leading mill opponent Geoffrey Cousins said. The Mercury

4 February Reduced woodchip sales to Japan would not mean a significant financial loss for Gunns said analyst Robert Eastment. The Examiner

3 February The Australian Electoral Commission revealed that Gunns donated $56,700 to the Liberal Party in the time between then-environment minister Malcolm Turnbull's conditional approval for the mill on October 4, 2007, and the federal election on November 24 of that year. The donations were made in sixpayments ranging, from $900 on October 12, to $25,000 on November 13. Donations of about $8050 were also made to the Liberal Party in July and August of 2007, while the mill's federal environmental approval was being considered. Greens leader Bob Brown said the funds raised serious concerns and questions about "the influence of political donations". "You have to wonder why Gunns gave not just one lump-sum donation to the federal Liberal Party between the announcement of the go-ahead for the pulp mill and the election, but a series of donations," Senator Brown said. "Couldn't Gunns make up their minds? Or was there some flow of information between the party and the company?" Labor received only $1986.30 from Gunns, donated to the party's Tasmanian division on August 8, 2007. The Australian

2 February Investigative work by John Hawkins has revealed direct employment in forestry and logging stand at 1,240 males and 225 females (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006 census). Total directly employed in Forestry in Tasmania is 1,465. Indirectly employed in wood product manufacturing and listed under manufacturing are 2,049 males and 257 females, a total of 2,306: in pulp paper 978 males and 136 females a total of 1,114. Total indirectly employed is 3,420. It is well known that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Forest industry lobbyist, Dr Julian Amos states “the forest industry plays an important part in the economic and social fabric of this state, including the direct employment of 6,000 Tasmanians and indirectly a further 11,000. ABS figures are only 1,465 and 3,420 respectively. Tasmanian Times

1 February Protesters have been urged to defy police and prepare for arrest as the battle of the state's forests intensifies. Several hundred people - including two full busloads of protesters from Hobart and another from Launceston - turned out for another mass rally in the Upper Florentine Valley yesterday. Mercury