Mill bidders just want trees

THE proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill could be left stranded without any timber resource with a number of investors interested in the plantations alone, industry groups have warned.

The Longreach site and permits have been offered up by receiver KordaMentha as part of a job lot of Gunns Ltd assets that includes a woodchipping business and almost 96,850 hectares of timber plantations.

The plantations include 50,000 hectares of managed investment scheme resource and are extremely valuable.

KordaMentha spokesman Michael Smith said some of the six investors shortlisted to bid in the sale were only interested in the trees.

``The sale is not necessarily a package deal,'' Mr Smith said.

``Our legal requirement is to act in the best interest of the bank, our secured creditors.

``If the highest price is just for the woodchipping business and the plantations without the pulp mill, we have got to accept it on behalf of our secured creditors.''

Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Michael Bailey said carving off the plantations from the pulp mill project would be a ``sad result'' for the state.

``What I fear is that someone could well come and get this resource at an absolute bargain-basement price _ it's incredibly valuable _ and then strip it to nothing,'' Mr Bailey said. 

Mr Bailey said it was also possible an investor with existing pulp assets could buy the mill licence with the intention of never building, to prevent competition.

A report by former Labor minister Martin Ferguson said the $2.3 billion project would create more than 3000 direct and indirect jobs.

Premier Lara Giddings said legislation intended to ease the transfer of the pulp mill licence to a new buyer was approved by cabinet yesterday and would be released today.

``We cannot guarantee that the pulp mill will occur as a result of the legislation, but what we can do is ensure that we give this pulp mill the best chance possible of being bought as a permit,'' Ms Giddings said.

``We know right now there are investors who are looking at buying the permit, but we also know there are investors who just want to buy the trees.

``The last thing we want is to see our plantation forests exported across the world, in that case exporting Tasmanian jobs across the world, when we need those jobs right now here in Tasmania.''


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