With the latest news of another local Gunns business going under along with 100 plus jobs, alarm bells will be ringing loudly for people who live in Launceston and the Tamar Valley.
As Gunns continue to sell off its businesses and shed its workforce in a fight to keep alive its $2.5 billion pulp mill, the focus will increasingly turn to Gunns proposed longreach mill in the Tamar Valley in which Gunns appears to have staked all its hopes and for all intents and purposes, the company".
However, the very real and genuine fear for Tamar Valley residents and business folk is that whilst Gunns Pulp Mill will benefit its distant shareholders, the quiet, clever and diverse community who have managed to live harmoniously for generations with the local environment will be left to pick up the pieces as the Gunns Pulp Mill business fails. As we have seen so often in Tasmania when logging industry business interests fail the taxpayer is forced to cough up tens of millions in subsidies and bail out money.
Many in the Tamar Valley fear that if the mill gets up, then five, ten, perhaps15 years down the track the story of Scottsdale, Austins Ferry, Manjimup (WA) and Tasmania's forest contractors all whom have felt the wrong end of Gunns "company restructure" will be repeated in the Tamar Valley as the pulp mill hits hard times, hits the wall or Gunns simply moves on.
There are indeed many precedents of this happening to pulp mills in other countries.
It will be of little consolation if the pulp mill does go belly up and the Tamar Valley is left with a $2.5 billion hi-tech squat for the homeless. At that stage there will be little recourse for compensation. Gunns, unlike existing locally owned businesses, will not be directly accountable to locals, rather protected from their appeals and protests by law.
If local boy - 2003 Tasmanian young achiever award winner, Daniel Alps can no longer serve the freshest, cleanest seafood and organic vegies because he can no longer afford to buy, or indeed to source it locally then the young people he employs from local towns like Exeter and Legana will be laid off.
If this occurs, will the Bartlett Government be forthcoming with a bailout package?
Likewise, local family business Miller’s Orchard was established in the 1930s and employ up to 60 full-time workers with a large percentage of their produce destined for the export market including France, Holland, Taiwan and Italy. Millers’ produce is more expensive than many of its competitors but it maintains its market because of the quality of the produce and the perception that it comes from a clean and pristine environment. Millers may well lose their export markets as their buyers worry about the damaged Tasmanian Brand and the impacts of pollution on the produce.
The continuing effect of the Gunns Pulp Mill on public life in Tasmania will be one of division. Terrible division. Supporting the project stopped being clever long ago. Most Tasmanians have already worked this out.
The kindest thing to do for the Island of Tasmania would be for the Bartlett Government to disconnect itself form the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill and reconnect to its line in the sand.
Until the Bartlett Government does so, the Gunns Pulp Mill will continue to be a millstone around their necks, as it locks Tasmania into a future so irreconcilably at odds with Premier Bartlett’s vision for the state, as outlined in his speech to the National Press Club last year.
...“Tasmania’s future does not lie in the massive bulk exports of raw materials, it lies in low volume high quality, high value exports. To do that we need to re-think our logistics, transport systems that are low emissions intelligent systems…It’s about our skills sector, science, and innovative agribusiness. It’s about transforming our logistics into smart, low emission transport systems, and drawing more people to visit our State through our growing food and wine tourism sector. That is a clever Tasmania in action” (Premier David Bartlett)
and.........from the OZ.... "However, The Australian has learned this is just the start of a far wider Gunns restructure that will result in the closure, sale or merger of four native timber sawmills -- at Smithton, Deloraine, Western Junction and Southwood in the Huon -- that employ hundreds".....read more in The Australian