Bid on pulp mill permit

AT LEAST one international buyer has formally bid on one of Tasmania’s most divisive business projects, renewing the possibility of a pulp mill at Bell Bay.

Gunns receiver Kordamentha has received an unknown number of bids for the Bell Bay site and pulp mill permits.

Kordamentha invited offers to buy the site and permits, or the site on its own.

The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has welcomed the news, saying it is important that the site is used, but protesters have warned that opposition to the mill is just as strong now as it was 10 years ago.

Kordamentha spokesman Michael Smith said offers closed last week, and the next step was to select a preferred bidder with whom they would negotiate.

Mr Smith said they had received at least one bid for the site and permits together, as well as bids for the site on its own.

He expected a sale would be finalised by early to mid-July.

‘‘Our role is to get the best result for creditors, and that generally means the highest bid, whether it’s just for the land or for the pulp mill licence,’’ Mr Smith said.

Friends of the Tamar Valley and Pulp the Mill spokeswoman Anne Layton-Bennett said that any investor considering the pulp mill permits and site should realise that opposition to the pulp mill didn’t end with the collapse of Gunns in 2012.

‘‘There will continue to be strong and determined community resistance to any company with plans to build it,’’ Ms Layton-Bennett said.

‘‘Given Gunns’ timber assets have now been sold to New Forests company, who have repeatedly stated they have no interest in building a pulp mill, permits for the mill can only be considered all but worthless.’’

Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Michael Bailey said he always felt the pulp mill project had huge potential, but he remained sceptical that it would proceed.

However, he said he couldn’t imagine why a business would bid on the pulp mill permits if it  didn’t plan to use them.

‘‘What I do expect to see there in the next few years is some sort of development, and it will be interesting to see what does actually happen,’’ Mr Bailey said.

‘‘If it’s a pulp mill, that’s great, but what’s important here is that this is something happening on this site.

‘‘The site itself is particularly impressive.’’

Mr Bailey said that regardless of how the land was used, its sale would be important for Launceston and the North-East.

‘‘To have this finally put to bed, I think it’s a very important thing,’’ Mr Bailey said.

‘‘Without a doubt in my mind it’s the most divisive issue in Tasmania of the last 20 years.’’