Millionaires Jan Cameron and Graeme Wood both conservation-minded entrepreneurs have achieved a stunning coup over loggers by buying the Triabunna woodchip mill right from a logging company.
Chickenfeed owner and philanthropist Jan Cameron and Graeme Wood brought the native forest woodchip export mill on Tasmania’s east coast from timber giant Gunns for $10 million, according to a report from The Australian. The deal will settle on Friday.
«To be honest I don’t have much understanding of what’s happened behind the scenes at all, we’ve been fairly committed about pursuing this opportunity and kept the negotiations open and we’ve been quite persistent,» said Ms. Cameron.
«I don’t know what Aprin’s bid was, so I can’t comment on that. We paid $10 million.»
The deal could be a turning point in the contentious dispute over the historic forest by loggers and conservationists. The new owners said last night that it would close the mill in three to five years. The two owners will now focus on making the prime costal site a wine and tourism spot.
Mr. Wood, founder of the tourist accommodation website wotif.com and Ms. Cameron will extend the mill’s operations until the industry could shift to plantation timber.
«We don’t want to see people thrown out of work,» he said, «but we also probably see more clearly the need for a restructuring in the forest industries generally and for people to open their minds about new ways of making a living in that part of Tasmania.»
Timber industry groups have expressed their shock over the deal, while family-owned sawmill operators are fearing for their future.
Rob Torenius, owner of one of the sawmills in the area which relies on the Triabunna mill, said: «Our confidence has been eroded over the last few months and this is really a final blow.»
The logging industry has warned that without the Triabunna mill its operations in southern Tasmania could no longer become financially viable. Triabunna offered loggers a way to raise income from poor quality «head logs»- the tops and branches of trees that other mills don’t accept.
Glamorgan Spring Bay Mayor Bertrand Cadart was also surprised when the news broke but he hoped that Cameron would stand by her plans to develop the tourism industry in the area.
«A town can thrive with a chip mill if it is properly supplied with material, but a town can also thrive with a resort.
«And it can thrive – because it has a deep sea port – as a cruise terminal.»
«But to do nothing would be almost criminal. That’s for sure,» he said.