21 June, 2006
The Age, June 21, 2006
A $650 million pulp mill has been put on hold because of plans to cut down six potential nesting trees for an endangered cockatoo.
Yesterday the federal Department of Environment and Heritage wrote to the developers of the Penola Pulp Mill in South Australia, just over the Victorian border, demanding more evidence that their plans would not affect the south-eastern red-tailed black cockatoo.
The mill's project director, John Roche, said he was surprised by the intervention, and concerned that the pulp mill might go the way of a Gippsland wind farm, recently vetoed by Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell because of a one-in-1000-year risk of it killing an endangered orange-bellied parrot.
"To build the mill we have to knock over six red gums that could be used as nesting habitat for the birds, but up until today we thought that decision would be made by the local council," Mr Roche said.
"Now that decision is with the Federal Government, obviously people are a little bit anxious after what happened with the wind farm in Victoria recently."
Better known to Victorians as Commonwealth Games mascot Karak, there are only about 1000 remaining south-eastern red-tailed black cockatoos, which are found only in western Victoria and parts of South Australia.
The greatest threat to their survival is the destruction of their nesting trees and food sources. A final decision on the mill is likely to take between three months and a year.
12 June, 2006
The Age (Business section), June 12, 2006
Victoria's forestry industry has launched action against VicForests' latest timber auction, saying it is unfair and produces outcomes that threaten parts of the industry.
The director of operations at the Victorian Association of Forest Industries, Nick Murray, said many of the prices reached in the auction were unsustainable.
Some of the state's best and most progressive value-adding sawmills refused to pay the high prices, and were feeling threatened, he said.
VAFI has lodged formal grievance procedures with the auction manager of online auctioneers BOMweb. The grievances will have to be heard before contracts arising from the auctions can be finalised.
The grievance procedure involves representatives from VicForests, BOMweb and an independent probity officer making a decision on the complaint.
The auction was held last week, the second in the new timber sales system that VicForests, the State Government's commercial forestry arm, will progressively introduce over the next decade.
The current system, where sawmills receive long-term licences and VicForests sets the prices for the various sawlog grades, will be progressively phased out. All native forest timber will be sold at auction by 2015.
The first auction in April was for 174,100 cubic metres of sawlogs, while the second was for about 700,000 cubic metres.
Mr Murray said the auction did not operate as buyers had been led to believe. He said it was far more complex than the first auction, with a combination of lots creating an incredible number of variables.
"There are a number of aggrieved buyers and bidders, both successful and unsuccessful, hit by the vagaries of the system," he said. "Many felt compelled to pay more than they would have thought, and others missed out on buying wood as a consequence."
Successful buyers were believed to include Neville Smith Timber Industries, Gould Sawmills, Auswest and Fenning Bairnsdale. Those missing out are believed to be leading players such as McCormack Timbers, Drouin West Timber and Black Forest Timbers.
Mr Murray said several prices, including for mountain ash, were excessive at 20-50 per cent above the administered price delivered at the mill gate.
10 June, 2006
The Age (Business Section), June 10, 2006
Construction of a $700 million pulp mill at Heywood in Victoria's south-west will get under way by the end of this year after the project received the go-ahead from the Victorian Government.
The mill, 20 kilometres from Portland, will take two years to build and is expected to produce its first pulp by 2009.
It is a sister mill to a proposed pulp mill in Penola, north of Mount Gambier, which is awaiting approval from the South Australian Government.
Together, the two pulp mills represent $1.3 billion in investment, and each will employ 120 people when in full production. About 600 jobs will be created in building each mill.
Woodchips for the mills — 1.4 million green tonnes a year — will be sourced from Timbercorp's blue gum hardwood plantations in the Green Triangle, the fertile region that stretches from Warrnambool in Victoria to Kingston in SA.
The Heywood pulp mill is valued at about $400 million, but the total project will cost about $700 million when other works are included. These include a 120 megawatt, gas-fired power station connected to the SeaGas gas pipeline between Victoria and SA, and upgrades to road, rail and terminals at the Port of Portland.
Both plants will be chemi-thermomechanical pulp (CTMP) mills. CTMP is used to manufacture soft and absorbent tissue, box-board and coated fine paper among other things.
The developer is Protavia, which is backed by an alliance of companies that includes Timbercorp, chemical giant Orica, CellMark, Andritz and Silcar. CellMark is the world's largest pulp and paper trader, Andritz is the world's largest provider of the CTMP technology, and Silcar is a joint venture between German companies Thiess and Siemens.
Project director John Roche said there was huge demand for the CTMP pulp and prices were very high. "It requires much energy to produce, and Australia's energy prices are very competitive," he said.
"We are not competing against Australian electricity prices, but prices in the rest of the world. Only Russia and South Africa are comparable with Australia, but they do not have the same stable political environment." Mr Roche said adding value to the woodchips would be of great benefit to Australia. Woodchips sell for about $150-$160 a tonne, whereas pulp fetches about $800 a tonne. Mr Roche said the pulp would be exported to Taiwan, Korea and China. The two mills are expected to generate export earnings of $700 million a year, which will put a big dent in Australia's annual $2 billion trade deficit in wood products.
Timbercorp's plantation timber is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
06 June, 2006
The Age ( letter) 6/6/06
Some 15,000 people rallied in Melbourne on Sunday to protect Victoria's old-growth, high-conservation forests and water catchments from woodchipping.
The message at the rally was loud and clear. Unfortunately, The Age (5/6), appears to have largely missed this message. It used the rally to advertise Steve Bracks' campaign to reduce power use — as important as the water use reduction campaign — thus diverting attention away from the fact that forested catchments continue to be logged primarily for woodchips.
Logging reduces water supply by as much as 50 per cent, yet the Bracks Government continues to allow our forested water catchments across Victoria to be cleared, while producing a sustainable water strategy that ensures that demand for water will exceed supply in the next 20 years for Melbourne, Ballarat and Geelong.
The Premier did say that logging has been reduced by 30 per cent over the past 6½ years. Not good enough, Mr Bracks. Protect our forests, our water, our air and our wildlife. End native forest logging now.
04 June, 2006
Sunday, June 4, 2006
Environmentalists want the Victorian Government to do more to protect the state's old-growth forests from logging.
The Wilderness Society says while the Government has bought out about one-third of the state's logging quotas and it should now go further.
Marking World Environment Day tomorrow, the society's Alec Marr says the old-growth forests in the east, water catchments and the homes of endangered wildlife must be saved.
"We certainly expected the Government to do more this term than they have and we are running out of time," he said.
"So we want to see the Premier take a leadership role and protect all of these fantastic areas of forest that the community has been fighting for for years."