MILLIONS of dollars in unpaid wages and contract entitlements across the Greater Green Triangle region is at stake in the fallout from the collapse of Gunns timber company.
Employees and contractors involved with harvesting and processing operations in south-west Victoria and south-east South Australia hold out some hope after an agreement by ANZ Bank last week to lend a further $1 million for entitlement payments.
The Tasmania-based Gunns had about 645 employees in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia when it went into voluntary administration late last month.
It had been managing and harvesting several south-west Victorian pulpwood plantations formerly under Great Southern managed investment schemes.
Port of Portland chief executive Jim Cooper said there was minimal disruption to harbour operations. “A small amount of woodchips will be affected temporarily,” he said.
“There’s no real impact on our port, but the big effect will be on South Australian sawmills.”
Gunns sold its port woodchip facility for about $60 million in July to US-owned Australian Bluegum Plantations which owns the majority of south-west plantations.
It also sold its Heywood mill in May for $28 million.
Great South Coast group chairman Cr Matt Makin of Corangamite Shire said the potential loss of jobs was concerning.
“There is no doubt the timber industry is a main economic driver of our region,” he said.
“Our best hope is that another company will take over from Gunns so harvesting and exports can continue.”
The group’s executive officer Karen Foster said about 200,000 hectares of the Green Triangle region was planted to hardwood blue gum and softwood pine.
“Forestry and timber processing are critically important for the Great South Coast economy,” she said.
“At this point, we’re unsure what impact the demise of Gunns will have on the industry, generally, and whether there will be any flow-on effects for our region.”