Can temporary loader save the woodchipping industry?

Conservationists are demanding that no public money be spent on subsidising the loading of woodchips or rebuilding the Eden chipmill jetty.

After visiting Twofold Bay to observe the first loading of woodchips since storm damage to the jetty in June, Convenor of the Chipstop Campaign, Harriett Swift said: “it is clear that massive new subsidies will be needed to save the woodchipping industry.”

“The temporary loading arrangement that we observed in Eden is slower, more expensive and can only work for smaller bulk carriers.”

It involves a shuttle of chip trucks carrying woodchips from the mill to the Navy wharf and tipped on to a makeshift conveyor belt, with each truck taking about 10 minutes to unload and a further 35 minutes to complete the circuit.
Most of the trucks appear to have been brought in from Victoria.

“The cost of temporary loading arrangements and a replacement for the old jetty and loader are prohibitive and the sooner the industry and the government recognise that reality the better.”

“The future of the woodchipping industry was doubtful even before the June storm, and there is no justification for any form of taxpayer bailout for this industry which already swallows up millions[1] of dollars a year from NSW and Commonwealth taxpayers.

“Virtually no purpose-built woodchip carriers these days are small enough to use the Navy Wharf. This adds to the cost and inefficiency of the temporary arrangements and makes cross contamination of loads a likelihood.

“Since the storm, Allied Natural Wood Exports (ANWE) has continued to receive logs and continue woodchipping, which demonstrates it is confident of getting some kind of bailout,” Ms Swift said.

Bega Valley Greens Councillor Keith Hughes said that Council’s experience with its insurance claim for the Tathra Wharf suggests that ANWE will be struggling to successfully claim from its insurance company for the storm damage.

Cr Hughes said that the Tathra wharf and the chipmill jetty were damaged on the same night by the same storm.

“Council’s insurance company has rejected a claim for storm damage to Tathra wharf, so it seems there must be a big question mark over whether ANWE will succeed in rebuilding the jetty and loader.

“The importance of the Tathra wharf to the region’s tourism, recreation and fishing industries is vastly more to than the value of the woodchip loader and far more worthy of taxpayer support,” Cr Hughes said. 

Ms Swift said that statements by the new chipmill owners early this year indicating that the future of their industry would be in plantations are sounding increasingly hollow.

“We understand that in order to operate the temporary loading arrangements at the Navy Wharf the export trade in plantation pine will have to stop, resuming only if or when the jetty and loader are rebuilt.”

“This shows that they are far more committed to the destructive native forest logging industry than to plantations.”

31 July 2016