Woodchip facility sale welcomed

TASMANIA'S peak forest industry body has welcomed the sale of Gunns' woodchip loading facility in Burnie.

Energy and Resources Minister Bryan Green announced yesterday that TasPorts had bought the facility from Gunns receivers KordaMentha.

Mr Green said the sale was a great result for sawmills in the North-West and Forestry Tasmania, which had been forced to transport woodchips to Bell Bay for export.

``Providing access to the woodchip loading facility in Burnie was a key issue that needed to be resolved as part of the TFA and now it's been ticked off,'' Mr Green said.

``Under Gunns' ownership, the loader was not available to the rest of the industry: now it's open for business.''

Forestry Industries Association of Tasmania chief executive Terry Edwards welcomed the announcement, saying the lack of access to the Burnie port for harvesting and processing had been ``highly problematic'' and limited profitability.

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive Jan Davis said the announcement was a boon for private forest owners, who managed 26 per cent of the state forest cover and much of  its plantations.

``We have lost the chipping facility at Triabunna,'' Ms Davis said.

``We could not afford to lose the loading facility at Burnie through the demise of Gunns.''

 Opposition forestry spokesman Peter Gutwein said people should not be fooled by the Labor announcement. ``They have spent the last four years selling out the forest industry and now they are just attempting to buy them back,'' Mr Gutwein said.

Mr Green also announced a March start for an $8 million upgrade of the Burnie port, with tenders due out this week.

The upgrade, funded by TasRail, TasPorts and Toll with a contribution from the state government, will increase port container capacity, expand the railyard and improve port security and traffic management. 

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