Pulp mill boss recruited to make project appealing

Greg L'Estrange
Greg L'Estrange

THE new head of Gunns' Bell Bay pulp mill project was head- hunted to make the controversial mill more palatable to would-be financiers.

Gunns managing director Greg L'Estrange confirmed yesterday that Finn Timo Piilonen was appointed two months ago to help international financiers feel more comfortable about the project.

"Absolutely - he has built pulp mills before," Mr L'Estrange said.

"He understands intrinsically what is required to build a world-class pulp mill and will bring the right people with the right skills and put the right programs in place."

Mr L'Estrange said that it helped having Mr Piilonen heading the pulp mill project when he was talking to potential investors, but it was not a prerequisite for any of the potential financiers.

He said the company intended to introduce improved technology to its pulp mill plan that would cut chlorine dioxide emissions by 40 per cent.

Gunns was awaiting a federal Environment Department decision on its hydrodynamic testing and analysis of Bass Strait waters, Mr L'Estrange said.

The Gunns report had gone to the federal department last month with a decision scheduled for March.

Mr L'Estrange said he was not concerned by Prime Minister Julia Gillard's recent refusal to provide further federal compensation money to the Tasmanian timber industry despite industry sources saying he had reacted angrily to the news.

"We are still focusing on working through the forest principles and working with (new federal facilitator) Bill Kelty," he said.

The company had a particular financier that it favoured as a partner in the pulp mill but it was still negotiating with several parties.

Mr L'Estrange refused to discuss the sale of his East Launceston house, which has been on the market for just under $1 million for some time.

"I'm a private person, not a public person - private things are left as private things and I expect my privacy to be respected," he said.

Mr L'Estrange said that he had given a commitment to Gunns to achieve certain things for the company and he would honour that commitment.