Gunns to finally end logging native forests in Australia

After thirty years fighting for change in Australia’s logging industry by conservation groups and the community, Australia’s largest logging company company Gunns Ltd has finally announced an end to the logging of native forests in Australia.

Gunns CEO Greg L’Estrange said at a conference yesterday, “Native forest is not part of our future.”

"We see that the conflict largely has to end…The vast support of the Australian population is with the environmental non-government organisations,” he said.

The Wilderness Society and other conservation groups have welcomed the announcement, and the promise from Gunns that they will work with community and conservation groups on protecting native forests and jobs from now on.

At the Wilderness Society we want to thank all our members and supporters who have helped keep the pressure for change on Gunns over the years.

Thank you - this would not have been possible without your ongoing support and action. Join us online to have your say on our facebook page.

The back-down by Gunns comes at a crucial time for Australia’s native forests, with the recent court-win against the logging of old-growth forests in Victoria only adding to the Australia-wide pressure for protection of our natural heritage.

This represents a huge step forward and forecasts a welcome change in direction in the long running conflict over forestry, and will set a new precedent for the forest industry in Australia.

But there is still more to do!

The next steps are getting the rest of the industry on board and protecting our native forests in national parks and reserves. The Wilderness Society is pushing for reforms in the plantation sector in efforts to create a more environmentally and socially sustainable forest industry.

In Tasmania:

Right now, informal talks are underway to explore ways to resolve the conflict over native forests in Tasmania and protect both jobs and native forests.

At these talks we’re seeking:

* Protection of Tasmania’s native forests,
* The creation of a sustainable timber industry, and
* The delivery of an end to the decades long forest conflict.

Find out more about the industry talks and read our Q&A.


With Gunns logging in Victoria and WA, this announcement could mean big gains on the mainland too.



Melissa Fyfe
September 12, 2010

TIMBER giant Gunns, a major player in Victoria's $3billion native forest industry, has confirmed it will move out of logging operations in state-owned forests.

Gunns chief executive officer Greg L'Estrange - responsible for 40 per cent of Victoria's native forest industry - told The Sunday Age that while moving out of Tasmania's native forests was the priority, the principle also applied long-term to Victoria.

The Victorian Greens have seized on the move and called on the Brumby Government to immediately end native forest logging and transfer the industry into plantations. The party will be campaigning on the issue in the lead-up to November's state poll. ''It should have stopped ages ago,'' said Greens candidate for Melbourne Brian Walters. ''There's no reason it can't stop immediately.''

But the Victorian Association of Forest Industries vowed to fight the Greens on native forest logging, making the issue a key battleground in the lead-up to November. Executive director Philip Dalidakis conceded that the Gunns decision had ''the potential to establish a precedent in the public mind''.

But he said the company was pursuing its own corporate strategy, which had little to do with a broader industry strategy, appropriate government policy or responsible forest management.

Shutting down Victoria's native forest logging would increase imports of timber products harvested under irresponsible environmental regimes, he said. ''This is environmental hypocrisy at its worst. The Greens have argued against native forestry and recently against plantation development, which makes me wonder which magic potion will appear to produce the wood and paper products consumers demand,'' said Mr Dalidakis.

The Sunday Age understands the Brumby Government is keen to bolster its environmental credentials before the state election by announcing a small reduction in native forest logging. Party strategists are believed to be currently looking at some of the controversial logging operations in Melbourne's water catchments.

Both Labor and the Coalition back Victoria's native forest industry, which is managed, on behalf of the taxpayer, by VicForests and provides one third of the state's timber. Government spokeswoman Emma Tyner said yesterday that any bans on the industry would mean unsustainable options such as ''steel, aluminium or illegal timber from overseas'' and that was ''unacceptable''.

Opposition environment spokeswoman Mary Wooldridge said the Coalition supported a vibrant logging industry. She said the party believed it was not possible for native forest logging operations to move entirely into plantations because there were simply not enough plantations to support the industry.

In the past few years, Tasmanian-based Gunns has built up its stake in Victoria's logging industry, with large sawmilling assets at Heyfield and Alexandra. Mr L'Estrange said it was difficult in Victoria to transfer to plantations because the plantation trees are mostly in the state's south-west, far from its sawmills.

Nevertheless, the company had taken on a broad policy of removing itself from native forests. ''There are no immediate plans for Victoria, but what we are saying is that we are progressively moving out of native forest logging. The first thing on the agenda, however, is to deal with what is happening in Tasmania,'' he said.

Mr L'Estrange stressed that no decision had been taken on Gunns' Victorian assets, and the broader fate of native forest logging would remain in the hands of the community and the government. Mr L'Estrange shocked the Australian logging industry last week when he announced that ''native forest is not part of our future''.

The new-look Gunns, following the departure of controversial leader John Gay, is keen to reduce the conflict around its operations in Tasmania to satisfy overseas investors and customers and to ensure its controversial pulp mill goes ahead.

The environment movement have long argued that woodchips for paper - and not the high-quality sawlog products - drive the Victorian industry. The industry says that while woodchips make up 65 per cent of products from the state's forests, sawlogs drive the industry and woodchips are largely a by-product.

Plantations in Victoria are growing every year, but the industry says there are not enough sawlog plantations - as opposed to woodchip plantations for paper production - to allow the move out of native forests into plantations. According to the government's timber strategy, about 730,000 hectares in eastern Victoria, or 9 per cent of the public native forests estate, is available for timber production.

There are 229,000 hectares of hardwood plantations in Victoria for short-rotation, high-quality woodchips and 222,000 hectares of plantation for sawlogs and woodchips.

"Timber giant concedes defeat in decades-old logging war" - The Age, Friday September 10.

Friday's headline in The Age was one to remember. After years of fighting to protect Tasmania's precious old growth forests we've finally convinced Gunns to get out of the business of native forest logging.

The writing has been on the wall for Gunns for some time now, and this victory is thanks to your efforts and those of our partners at organisations like The Wilderness Society and Environment Tasmania.

GetUp members have funded full page newspaper ads in Australia and abroad. We've mobilised shareholders and customers to influence the ANZ bank and scare off all other Australian banks from financing a destructive pulp mill.

GetUp members like you then took the fight to the world's biggest financial markets with ads in European and Asian newspapers. Over the years we've written to Environment Ministers, placed thousands of phone calls and sent tens of thousands of emails to our politicians to keep this campaign alive.

This victory has proven that when we can demonstrate that the community's attitudes are ahead of those of our decision makers we can create major change in our nation - and you are an integral part of this process.

Thanks for being a part of this movement,
The GetUp team.

P.S. Informal talks between the forest industry and the environment movement are happening right now in Tasmania. We could be on the precipice of big change.

Dalidakis get your s...t together and make your kids proud of you to have a father who is a fab role model and a lasting testament for the next generation!!

Oh is that not wonderful, know what happens to all those people who are out of a job and due to the location of gunns Mills have next to no chance of getting another job...good one greenies.

So we should keep destroying the world for jobs?

Wake up we are talking about real people here, who have already been through enough. the people in the area we are talking about were absolutely devasted both financially and emotionally due to the Black Saturday bushfires and the one thing helping them financially is their jobs at the Mill. If the Mill closes down they have next to no chance of getting another job around here as there is just no work. The Mill at Alexandra is the biggest employer in this area. So yes we should think twice DIET when it comes to the jobs here.

I agree with Susan. The workers were told today that the mill is closing this week. How many people and families is this going to destroy. Not to mention what it will do to the town. The people up here have already been through enough and now they have another hurdle. Its a shame ITC couldn't retain ownership. At least they tried to look after their workers.

I agree with Marg, my husband is one of those at Gunns Alexandra, who is now going to be without a job and at the age of 55 and with the location his chance of getting another job is less than zero. Good on you greenies and gunns, you have effectively destroyed 50+ families and 3 wonderful towns. May you rot.

People from the city just don't understand how a place like Alexandra and surrounding towns is kept alive by the work offered at Gunns timber mill. It is all very well that Gunns is offering training to the now ex workers to help them get work elsewhere, but in a small town like this there just isn't the job availabilty for the amount of people now out of work because of their closure. The effects of this closure will hit all businesses in the town with so many families now left without an income. To Susan, I hope things work out for you and your husband. My son is only in his early 20's and what has happened has devastated him with the mill being his first and only job since he left school. At least he has his age on his side when it comes to looking for work, but his only experience is in the timber mill industry.

I think Gunns planned to sell the Alexandra mill from the moment they purchased it from the ITC 'fire sale', they are an evil multi armed company. Their 2009 financial profit statement on their website says it all. How are our men to survive this really, and what will the real damage be to families over christmas?