15 July, 2011

Logger blames Gunns for pain

The Mercury, 15 July 2011

PROUD forestry operator Michael Woods is from a generation that does not ask for help.

Men like him just roll up their sleeves and get on with the job.

But having to sack his two sons from his log-harvesting business Eastern Tiers this year as the company that he built over two decades collapsed around him left the 52-year-old in a position he never thought possible.

"I'm seeing a psychologist to help me through it," he said.

"I'm a baby-boomer -- the generation raised on having a cup of concrete and hardening up if you're having a problem.

"But this, this is something different altogether. This is bloody hard."

Mr Woods's sons were forced to leave their Triabunna home, heading to the North-West where they found work.

Leaving the East Coast town is something Mr Woods said he is also forced to consider after Gunns announced it had sold its Triabunna woodchip mill to buyers with plans to transform it into a tourism hub.

Mr Woods said that after closing down his business he remained about $800,000 in debt, despite receiving an $815,000 exit package from the Federal Government to quit the haulage and harvesting sector and selling about $6 million worth of machinery.

"The future here is uncertain, working in Western Australia, in mining, is probably one of only a few options right now," he said.

"I'm selling scraps of firewood just to put bread and butter on the table, because the industry's been destroyed and with this sale of the mill the future's just too uncertain."

To say Mr Woods feels hatred for Gunns is an understatement.

With his teeth clenched he yesterday said he held them responsible for the collapse of his business, through painfully low payments and a sudden exit from native forests.

He also held them responsible for his family's pain with the uncertainty created through the sale of the Triabunna mill.

"What they've done, they've ruined me," he said.

"I'm 52, I've absolutely worked my butt off and created a business that's successful.

"We had a succession plan in place but one company, just one company, has ruined my life and my family's -- I'm not the only contractor who feels this way."

Mr Woods said financial worries and the town's uncertainty were affecting his daughter Hannah, 11.

"From a family's perspective it's terrible," he said. "My youngest, Hannah, was sitting on the jetty the other night writing a list of ideas of how to help Mummy and Daddy get money."

Mr Woods's wife, Glamorgan Spring Bay councillor Jenny Woods, said Hannah suggested she become a contestant on the TV game show Deal or No Deal.

"We have children who are suffering because of this deal," she said.

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