Saturday, 17 February 2007

280,000 tonnes of pine...

Sue Neales explores an interesting connection this morning in The Mercury. The pulp mill needs 280,000 tonnes of pine each year, which is remarkably close to the amount that FEA have secured from the people of Tasmania, via Rayonier. It's not quite that simple, as there is the question of the spare bits of tree that can't be sawn, and various ways we currently use this residue resource, but it's an interesting line to pursue. It was explored a little on Tasmanian Times some months ago.
Let's just try to follow the logic of this. This resource, sawmilled, directly employs 300 people in Scottsdale, and indirectly employs some other quite large number of people in the surrounding area, estimated by some as a total of up to 1000. The pulpmill, when built, is only going to employ 292 people. There will be some indirect jobs as well, we could even say 2000 (over 25 years!!), as the pulp mill taskforce does, but that’s probably as reliable as the 1000 for Scottsdale. You can argue about which bit of resource is used where, but at present the whole resource is used somehow, employing someone, except for those logs going overseas. Furthermore, surely some of the pulpmill jobs of course ought to be people previously employed producing and exporting woodchips, who move over into producing and exporting pulp. Now excuse me, but even if we don't take into account any intangibles, it seems that there's a high risk of the pulp mill being financially negative for Tasmania, even if positive for Gunns, if the jobs "created" are scavenging heavily from other existing industries. This story and pdf on Tasmanian Times looked at the issue a while ago. If we took account of lost opportunities, cost of water, road damage etc etc, potentially the only people winning would be Gunns’ shareholders.
Given that FEA have no sawmill yet, and a mill is "at least 14 months away", you'd have to say there could be some legs to this speculation. If FEA are indeed acting as a "warehouse" for the softwood required by Gunns' pulpmill, then we see the quite frightening connection of all the dots across all these individually disturbing stories. Now, what are the connections between Gunns and FEA?? Can the fearless reporters from the Examiner shed any light, can they glean any gems of evidence from the Launceston cocktail circuit? Or maybe if I get on the Net and do some more searching, it will all become clear?? Will Gunns now buy up FEA? Do they already have an agreement to get FEA's residue? What threats about the likelihood of Gunns dealing with Auspine in future could have been made? I do know that the FEA CEO used to work for Gunns, but then almost everyone in timber in Tasmania must have at some stage.
Bulldozed pines - photo from The Mercury, 17 Feb 2007This missive from Richard Flanagan is worth another read. And this story in the Mercury just further confirms the impression of ongoing mismanagement in Tasmania's forests. What a waste this is, see photo.

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