Media stories September 09

30 September Gunns has recorded a profit of $56 million for the year, down from $59 million. Chairman John Gay said that the instability of the global financial markets impacted on Gunns over the past 12 months, with less demand for wood fibre products from Japan and a 45 per cent reduction in earnings from the managed investment scheme business. Gunns said its non-operating items included $21.6 million on its controversial $2.2 billion pulp mill project. Expenses included key contractual arrangements for equipment supply and construction, development of environmental management plans and progressing financial arrangements. It said it would finance the project with debt finance, export credit facilities and equipment finance. The Examiner

29 September Cynical green spin or smart corporate branding? These were the two options confronting readers of the Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times after Gunns engaged in a mass marketing campaign. When readers of the dailies opened their newspapers yesterday, out fell a 20-page booklet titled The Little Green Book, with the subtitle Facts about Gunns and the Environment. The glossy booklet is filled with big pictures with just one or two paragraphs of writing underneath each image. There is no mention of the giant pulp mill approved for construction on the Tamar. Gunns said the booklet was about "corporate branding" and had nothing to do with the Tamar Valley pulp mill project. Wilderness Society pulp mill campaigner Vica Bayley called it one of the most cynical "greenwashing" exercises he had ever seen. "It doesn't tell readers Gunns is still logging old-growth forests, can't get top forest stewardship certification for its logging operations and is still using 1080 poison to kill native animals," he said. The Mercury

26 September  Until recently the Premier's line was that the Labor government had done enough to advance the (pulp mill) project. Time and again, he insisted the project was entirely in Gunns' hands and would live or die solely on whether the company could raise finance. Apparently, flying halfway across the world to join the company chairman in reassuring bankers is not involvement with the project. However, the cost of being seen to back-flip right back into bed with Gunns will be high. The fast-track of the mill to sidestep a planning authority that had found the project to be critically non-compliant was rightly seen by most Tasmanians as a corruption of proper process. Many will never support the Gunns mill because of this alone, leaving aside legitimate concerns about air and water pollution in the Bass Strait and the Tamar Valley. Bartlett's squiggle in the sand may have washed away, but he continues to walk a fine line politically. The Australian

25 September Gunns has missed out in its bid to acquire forestry assets from collapsed agricultural projects firm Timbercorp Ltd. About 10,000 people invested $800 million in Timbercorp's forestry schemes before it went into administration in April. The Age

23 September Gunns is seeking up to 35 redundancies at its woodchip mills and plantation division. The redundancies come as Gunns chairman John Gay and Treasurer Michael Aird talk up the firm to potential joint venture company Sodra in Europe. The revelation about plantations comes at an awkward time because Sodra has said it would only become involved in a mill that had 100 per cent plantation feedstock. Mr L'Strange said demand for woodchips in Japan was down by about 30 per cent. "We have held on and done everything we can but demand is still looking weak and the volume is well down on previous years," he said. Gunns laid off about 135 employees after buying the Auspine sawmill at Tonganah but is still one of the state's biggest employers with 2500 employees. The Mercury

18 September Premier David Bartlett provided Gunns with an official letter (dated 7 May) of "full support" by the Government for its pulp mill project. Mr Bartlett's letter -- addressed "Dear John" -- also notes "recent public activity and attempts by (environmental and anti-pulp mill groups) to undermine investor confidence in the project". "In this environment, I believe it is of value to provide clarity on the Tasmanian government's position on the project," the two-page letter states. "The Tasmanian government views the Bell Bay pulp mill (north of Launceston) as a critical processing initiative. "We are fully supportive of the project proceeding." Mr Bartlett also offered to personally meet any banks or prospective joint venture partners looking at investing in the Gunns pulp mill, if it would help "provide confidence in the Government's position". The Premier's letter was written less than a year after Mr Bartlett pledged no more government money would be spent on the development after November. Besides stating the pulp mill has the approval of the Tasmanian Parliament, Mr Bartlett's letter details to interested investors how the Pulp Mill Assessment Act and its accompanying operating permit overrule all other permits, licences, approvals and laws that "may otherwise have been required" to be met. The Mercury

17 September Gunns has thanked State Treasurer Michael Aird for agreeing to lobby its prospective pulp mill partner. Mr Aird conceded he had phoned Gunns management once he knew he was travelling to Europe, to offer to meet any companies it thought might be useful. The Mercury

17 September The future of Gunns’pulp mill hangs in the balance, with potential Swedish joint venture partner Sodra insisting on a redesign and financiers demanding assurances of government support. Geoff Cousins said a representative of Sodra had indicated to him that it was “possible” to meet two of the three key demands of anti-mill campaigners. These include shifting the mill’s feedstock to 100 per cent plantation sourced from start-up, avoiding the need to use native forests in the first five years, and redesigning the pulp process to be totally chlorine free. Gunns’ recent buy-up of plantations has brought it close to the first goal, but TCF status would greatly increase the project cost and potentially require fresh government approvals. The other significant concession sought by mill opponents—re-siting of the project away from the Tamar Valley food and wine district—would remain a sticking point, even if the first two were overcome. The Australian also understands prospective European financiers have been spooked by an anti-mill media campaign and are seeking top-level clarification of whether the project enjoys state government support. The Australian

16 September Treasurer Michael Aird will join Gunns' representatives in talks with potential pulp mill financiers next week while on a seven-day jobs mission to northern Europe. News of Mr Aird's overseas pulp mill talks brought an angry response from both the Opposition and Greens. Opposition treasury spokesman Peter Gutwein said that the move proved that Premier David Bartlett was not to be trusted. Greens leader Nick McKim described the trip as an outrageous misuse of Tasmanian taxpayers' money. A spokesman for Gunns said last night that the company was pleased to get the Tasmanian Government support. The Examiner

15 September Sodra has asked Sydney-based Ecos Corporation to meet opponents of the $2.2 billion pulp mill planned for the Tamar Valley to determine how the project could be made more acceptable to the local community. Ecos consultant Robbie Kelman was scheduled to meet representatives of Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill (TAP) yesterday, as well as Frank Strie from the Timber Workers for Forests organisation. Mr McMahon said Mr Kelman had been very low-key about his mission, but he appeared to be writing a report about prevailing community attitudes towards the pulp mill. It was not clear yesterday whether Mr Kelman had been commissioned by Sodra alone or by a consortium of European pulp companies. The Mercury

13 September Former TV newsreader Steve Titmus will stand as a Liberal candidate in Bass at the next federal election. Mr Titmus read the news on Southern Cross from 1997 to 2002, but his contract was not renewed because of a perceived conflict of interest with his dual role as a public relations consultant for Gunns. He remained tight-lipped as to whether he supported the $2.2 billion Gunns pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. State president Sam McQuestin described Mr Titmus's connections with the Launceston community as a great asset. The Mercury

7 September More than 600 people attended a community picnic at Trevallyn Reserve to air their concerns about the proposed use of the area for the Gunns pulp mill water pipeline. Individuals and family groups armed with picnic rugs and camp chairs were at the reserve to hear speeches from politicians, aldermen, lobby groups and local residents. The Examiner

7 September Argentine pulp mill protestors promise to “fight on” whatever the ruling of the hearings in the International Court of Justice in The Hague on the pulp mills dispute between Uruguay and Argentina. Pickets that have been blocking bridges between the two neighbouring countries promised to keep on the struggle. “Whatever the ruling, the fight goes on”, said a crowd of Argentine protestors who marched to the international bridge linking Gualeguaychú with Fray Bentos in Uruguay, where the Botnia pulp mill and heart of the contention has been built and has been in production for over a year. Pickets argue that the state of the art pulp mill, in spite of complying with the latest EU regulations on environmental impact, confirmed by independent studies, including from Argentine universities, is polluting the waters of the River Uruguay and the air, becoming a health hazard. Mercopress

5 September A group of more than 100 lawyers is considering taking a fight against Gunns' proposed pulp mill to the High Court. Lobby group Lawyers for Forests has three weeks to decide whether to take its legal challenge against the mill to the highest court in the nation. The group suffered a setback in its campaign against the mill this week when the Federal Court dismissed an appeal the lawyers had made against an earlier rejection by the court. Forests Minister David Llewellyn said "These appeals achieve nothing and are simply bloody-minded tactics to try to delay a project that will provide hundreds of jobs for Tasmanians and pump tens of millions of dollars into the Tasmanian economy". The Mercury