Reprieve for old forests as Gunns down axe


“Native forest is not part of our future,” he said. “We see that the conflict largely has to end. Our employees and the communities we operate in have been collateral damage to this process. We want to move our business to a plantation-based business.”

Mr L’Estrange said Gunns wanted a constructive outcome to the forestry negotiations and the company would take in ideas from “all parties”.

Mr L’Estrange has been repositioning Gunns Ltd since taking over from John Gay, who was ousted this year after he sold $2 million worth of shares just weeks before unveiling a 98 per cent drop in profit in the six months to December 2009. Mr Gay has since resigned from the board and has also ceased his involvement with Gunns’ controversial $2 billion Bell Bay pulp mill.

To finance the mill, Gunns needs to attract foreign investment and has joined with Swedish company Sodra, which is insisting the mill meet world’s best practice environmental standards and rely on plantation resource. The mill, which requires final federal approval, is still hotly opposed on environmental grounds.

Gunns and Tasmania’s environment movement have been long-time foes, culminating in a long-running bitter legal dispute brought by the company against 20 conservationists, including the Greens leader Bob Brown. The legal action failed this year.

But the deputy leader of the Greens, Christine Milne, yesterday said Gunns should receive compensation if it pulled out of its Forestry Tasmania agreements.