Pulp Mill costs NSW taxpayers $3.5m

Wendy Frew Environment Reporter – Sydney Morning Herald

NSW taxpayers are subsidising a Japanese woodchip mill on the South Coast to the tune of $3.5 million a year because the State Government is selling native timber to the mill too cheaply, industry experts say.

At a time when there are fears native forest logging is fuelling climate change, the Government is selling native timber from South Coast forests for between $6.90 and $16 a tonne to an Eden woodchip mill owned by Japan’s South East Fibre Exports.

The Government says the operations "pay their own way" but environmentalists and forestry analysts believe it is under pressure from unions and Forests NSW to maintain industry jobs.

"It is actually costing the Government money to run this operation … but the CFMEU gives a lot of money to the Labor Party," said an anti-logging campaigner, Harriet Swift. "The bureaucracy of Forests NSW is very good at looking after itself, too."

The native timber prices for the 2003-04 year were so low they did not cover Forests NSW’s own costs, leading to windfall profits for the mill, said a forestry analyst, Terry Digwood. The figures were revealed following a freedom of information application to Forests NSW.

The Government made a loss of $3.5 million in 2005-06 supplying native pulp logs to the mill, analysis done by Mr Digwood showed.

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