Friday, November 25, 2011

ANZ Bank urged not to throw good money after bad

Members of Pulp the Mill, Friends of the Tamar Valley and TAP Into a Better Tasmania gathered outside the Launceston branch of ANZ Bank yesterday to express their concern about the ANZ’s continued support for timber company Gunns Limited.

Stephani Taylor, spokesperson for PtM said that despite the ANZ being Gunns’ principal bank, and a significant creditor that was owed in excess of $500 million, it had publicly announced three years ago it would not provide funding for Gunns’ controversial Tamar Valley pulp mill project. The ANZ re-confirmed this position in June.

“While this may be the ANZ’s official line, the bank’s decision to reportedly provide an additional $200 million to Gunns, not only sends a contradictory message to financial markets, and an inflammatory one to the Tasmanian community, it also prolongs the uncertainty and stress the community has already suffered in respect of the pulp mill over the last seven years,” Ms Taylor said.

Following Gunns’ decision to sell its secondary interests and assets in hardware stores, vineyards, walnut farms, sawmills, and even some of its timber plantations, groups opposed to the pulp mill said the company is relying completely on the assumption the pulp mill will be built.

“Even its Lindsay Street offices have been sold, so Gunns is staking its future on getting the pulp mill built. Any further loans made by the ANZ to Gunns therefore effectively signals the bank’s approval for this flawed and deeply unpopular project,” said Anne Layton-Bennett, spokesperson for FTV.

Community groups PtM, FTV and TAP Into a Better Tasmania said by providing any support for the pulp mill the ANZ Bank seriously risks contravening the Equator Principles, to which the Bank proudly states it is a signatory,

“Despite a belated attempt to “consult with local communities about concerns communities may have” Gunns will never receive a social licence to build or operate a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. Any financial institution that chooses to facilitate the mill’s construction should recognise it will face an ongoing national campaign of community opposition, which will result in serious damage to its international reputation,” Ms Taylor said.

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