TRUTH ABOUT WOODCHIP CONTRACT COULD “WIND UP EDEN WOODCHIP EXPORTS BUSINESS”
A far south coast forest activist has been frustrated in her efforts to get details of woodchip contracts from the State Government agency, Forests NSW because the Eden chipmill says disclosure could force it to close.
Ms Harriett Swift, who is convener of the Chipstop campaign and Deputy Convenor of the South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA), wants details of contracts to supply native forest logs from public forests for woodchipping by South East Fibre Exports (SEFE), a subsidiary of multinational paper giant, the Nippon Paper Group.
This week Ms Swift obtained a decision in her favour for the release of the contract under the Government Information (Public Access) ACT (GIPA) 2009 but faces a further wait of upwards of 2 months before she knows whether she can get the contract.
“I have won the right to this information but I still cannot get it because the woodchippers object,” she said.
“Normally I would not mind waiting a few more months. After all, people have been campaigning to close this chipmill for more than 40 years.”
“However, right now, every week counts. SEFE is staggering from month to month under threat of closure if it does not shape up. The public has a right to this information now,” Ms Swift said.
According to the official advice to Ms Swift this week: "to allow the release of confidential information to any direct or indirect competitor for resource, could, in the current circumstances, force the third party to wind up Eden woodchip exports business, at significant cost to Forests NSW and remote regional communities in south east NSW".
“In other words, disclosing the truth about wood supply commitments from native forests owned by the people of NSW will put them out of business,” she said.
The Department of Trade and Investment Information & Privacy Officer had advised that the contract will not be released “whilst review rights are pending."
“With a clever lawyer they could string me along almost indefinitely,” she said.
Ms Swift said that the Nippon Paper owned mill had been the subject of rumours for the last 6 months that it was likely to close.
The Nippon Paper board advised SEFE just before Christmas that it would not close the chipmill at the moment but gave no guarantees of a longer term future.
“In these circumstances NSW taxpayers have a right to know the full implications of these contracts for the south east forests and the State Budget.”
“Both SEFE and Forests NSW Native Forest Division are running at multimillion dollar losses and the longer the chipmill stays in business, the more it is costing taxpayers, shareholders and the forest animals.”
11 January 2013
Advice from Department of Trade and Investment Information & Privacy Officer