Gunns

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Gunns Limited
Type Public company
Traded as ASXGNS
Industry Timber production
Founded 1875
Founder(s) John and Thomas Gunn
Headquarters Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
Key people Chris Newman (Chairman)
Revenue DecreaseA$406 million (2012)[1]
Profit DecreaseA$904 million (2012)
Employees 645 (2012)[2]
Divisions Gunns Plantations Limited
Gunns Forestry Limited
Tamar Ridge Wines
Gunns Retail
Gunns Timber Products
Gunns Pulp
Website www.gunns.com.au

Gunns Limited is a major forestry enterprise located in Tasmania, Australia. It has operations in forest management, woodchipping, sawmilling and veneer production. The company was placed in voluntary administration in September 2012.

History[edit]

Founded in 1875 by brothers John and Thomas Gunn, it is one of Australia's oldest companies. It has over 900 square kilometres of plantations, mainly eucalyptus trees. It is Tasmania’s largest private land-owner. The company employs over 1,200 people and has suffered a dramatic turnaround in revenue in recent years, going from a turnover in excess of A$600 million in 2006, to a loss of over $350 million in 2011.[3] Gunns is the largest export woodchip operation in the Southern Hemisphere, and one of two chip export companies sourcing raw materials from Tasmanian forests, the other being Neville Smith Forest Products through their SmartFiber branch in Bell Bay.[4]

Operations[edit]

The move to expand its base into mainland operation began with the acquisition of Auspine in 2007.[5] In September 2010, Gunns announced that it will end logging of old growth forests and move to plantation timber.[6] In November 2011, the Gunns Mitre 10 stores were re-branded as Beck's Home Timber and Hardware, owned by the Danks Brothers Hardware Group, subsidiary of Woolworths Limited.[7]

Gunns was placed into voluntary administration on 25 September 2012, after it was unable to raise further capital or restructure the business.[2]

Victoria[edit]

In 2009, the company was awarded a contract to operate a new woodchip processing facility at Portland.[8] The woodchipping mill was later sold off to Australian Bluegum Plantations in 2012, for $61.8 million.[9]

South Australia[edit]

In South Australia the company managed blue gum plantations on Kangaroo Island.[10] In Jamestown Gunns was a major customer of Morgan Sawmill.[10]

Gunns bought the Tarpeena softwood sawmill from the now failed Forest Enterprises Australia. Which was later sold onto Timberlink.

Tasmania[edit]

Gunns operated sawmills across the state. It operated a total of three woodchipping mills in Tasmania alone in Longreach; near Bell Bay, Triabunna and Hampshire; near Burnie. The company was forced to close all three of these woodchipping mills and most of its sawmills in 2011. After being placed into voluntary administration in 2012, the Longreach mill was reopened and began exporting woodchips once again.[11]

In 2008, operations at a sawmill in Scottsdale were restructured, resulting in the loss of 70 jobs.[12] The sackings broke an agreement with the federal government, leading to the cancellation of substantial funding assistance.[13] In the same year, around 135 workers at another Auspine sawmill at Tonganah lost their jobs after a softwood timber contract had gone to a competitor.[14]

Western Australia[edit]

Gunns operates three hardwood sawmills in Western Australia. Their nationwide product line of timber flooring includes the hardwood, Jarrah, found in the southwest of the state. The timber is reddish-brown when hewn and is, "renowned for its beauty, warmth and durability".[15] Their environmental initiatives include achieving certification under International standard ISO 14001:2004.[16] Gunns supplies local trade and retail markets from its distribution yard in Welshpool, near Perth.

Criticism[edit]

Anti-pulpmill rally (April 2007)

The company has been the focus of criticism from environmentalists, primarily for its four woodchip mills which produce 4 million tonnes of chips for export annually. Green groups claim that native forests are harvested specifically for woodchipping, whereas Gunns claim that the majority of their chips come from residue from their sawmilling and veneer operations. Gunns' major customers are paper producers in Northern Asia, mainly Japan, including Mitsubishi, Nippon and Oji Paper. Gunns has also been criticized for its logging operations in the Styx Valley and for its use of 1080 poison [1] to kill wildlife including protected species (baiting and particularly aerial spraying of forest prior to clearfelling [4]).

In 1989, the chairman of Gunns, Edmund Rouse, unsuccessfully attempted to bribe a Labor member, Jim Cox, to cross the floor, which would have allowed the pro-logging Tasmanian government of premier Robin Gray and the Liberal Party to resume power. A Royal Commission followed and convicted Rouse.[17] Robin Gray became director of Gunns Limited on 21 February 2000. He retired from the position in 2010.

Further allegations of corruption appeared when Paul Lennon, Premier of Tasmania, had his heritage home renovated by a Gunns-owned company at the height of Gunns' push for the Bell Bay Pulp Mill. Lennon refused to disclose how much he paid for the renovations.[18]

Bell Bay Pulp Mill[edit]

The proposed mill site taken from Kayena, Tasmania

The company was planning to build a $2 billion pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, near Launceston. The proposed mill would have used the Kraft process, Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) bleaching, and been fed with plantation eucalypt forest timber. The project was supported by the State Government for the perceived economic and employment benefits which were said to include $6.7 billion in spending over 25 years and 2000 temporary jobs created during the construction phase,[19] but was opposed by environmental and social activist groups. Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull gave approval for the project on Wednesday 3 October 2007.[20] This decision was however challenged by The Wilderness Society and later overturned on appeal due to alleged flaws discovered in the approval process.

Gunns 20[edit]

In the 2005 Gunns Limited v Marr & Ors case,[21] Gunns filed a writ in the Supreme Court of Victoria, against 20 individuals and organisations including Senator Bob Brown, for over A$7.8 million .[22]

Some members of the "Gunns 20" at a protest rally, December 2004 (Bob Brown centre, Peg Putt right)

The original list of defendants were:

Gunns claims that the defendants have sullied its reputation and caused it to lose jobs and profits. The defendants claim that they are protecting the environment. The defendants have become collectively known as the "Gunns 20".[23]

Opponents and critics of the case have suggested that the writ was filed with the intent to discourage public criticism of the company, in a similar vein to a Strategic lawsuit against public participation, commonly used in North America,[24][25] and the English McLibel case of McDonald's Restaurants against environmental activists Helen Steel and David Morris over a pamphlet critical of the company.[26] Gunns has maintained the position that they are merely trying to prevent parties enjoined to the writ from undertaking unlawful activities that disrupt their business. The statement of claim alleged incidents of assault against forestry workers and vandalism.[27][28]

At a hearing before the Supreme Court of Victoria, an amended statement of claim lodged by the company and served on defendants on 1 July 2005 was dismissed.[21] However, the judge in the case granted the company leave to lodge a third version of their statement of claim with the court no later than 15 August 2005.[21]

The application continued before the court, before being brought to a close on 20 October 2006.[22] In his ruling, The Honourable Justice Bongiorno, made an award of costs in favour of the respondents only as far as it covered those costs incurred with the striking out the third version of the statement of claim, and costs incurred associated with their application for costs.[22]

In November 2006, Gunns dropped the case against Helen Gee, Peter Pullinger and Doctors for Forests. In December 2006, it abandoned the claim against Greens MPs Bob Brown and Peg Putt.[29] The other matters were all settled in favour of Gunns following the payment of more than $150,000 in damages or, in some cases, undertakings to the court not to protest at certain locations.

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ "Preliminary Final Report". Gunns Limited. 31 August 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Gunns appoints administrators". The Sydney Morning Herald. 25 September 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  3. ^ "2011Annual Report" (PDF). The Mercury Newspaper. Retrieved 2011-09-09. 
  4. ^ a b Schofield, Leo (6 October 2003). "Toxic avengers". Bulletin with Newsweek (Australia) 121 (6376): 11. 
  5. ^ "Gunns to make $332m takeover offer for Auspine". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 May 2007. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  6. ^ Manning, Paddy (11 September 2010). "A growth industry set up to fail". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 September 2010. 
  7. ^ "All eyes on Gunns' share price". 936 ABC Hobart (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 26 May 2010. Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  8. ^ "Gunns in Victorian port woodchip deal". ABC Northern Tasmania (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 30 July 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  9. ^ "Gunns offloads Portland woodchip plant for $61.8m". Sydney Morning Herald. 16 July 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "Gunns demise creates uncertain times". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 27 September 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  11. ^ http://www.examiner.com.au/story/1562987/woodchip-mill-reopens/
  12. ^ "70 jobs lost, Gunns closes Scottsdale sawmill". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2 July 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  13. ^ "Gunns loses federal funding". ABC Hobart (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 7 August 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  14. ^ Paul Carter (10 July 2008). "Gunns sawmill axes up to 135 jobs". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  15. ^ Gunns. "About Gunns (WA)". Company website. Retrieved 2007-06-07. "Gunns in Western Australia has demonstrated its commitment to product and service excellence by achieving the coveted International Standard ISO9001:2000 Quality Assurance Certification." 
  16. ^ Gunns; Max Evans - General Manager (October 2006). "Gunns Limited Western Australia - Environmental Policy". Company website. Retrieved 2007-06-07. "Gunns is committed to the United Nations definition of sustainable development; that is "development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"." 
  17. ^ Flanagan, Richard (May 2007). "Out of control: the tragedy of Tasmania's forests". The Monthly 23: 20–31. 
  18. ^ The Australian. "Gunned down". John Lyons. 5 October 2007.
  19. ^ http://www.justice.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/82282/Final_ITS_Global_Report.pdf ITS Global Report
  20. ^ ABC News
  21. ^ a b c [2005] VSC 251
  22. ^ a b c [2006] VSC 386
  23. ^ Gunns, greenies and the law by Andrew Darby, The Age, 29 August 2006. Accessed 10 June 2007
  24. ^ "GUNNS 20". Senator Bob Brown. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  25. ^ "Tasmanian action a threat to basic rights". London: The Guardian. 2006-04-03. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  26. ^ "Who benefits when a company sues to save its reputation? Melbourne Age Newspaper, 17 Dec 04". The Age. 17 December 2004. 
  27. ^ "The Law Report, ABC Radio National, 25 Jan 05". 
  28. ^ "Sydney Morning Herald, Middle ground views are up against battleground tactics, 7 Apr 05". The Sydney Morning Herald. 7 April 2005. 
  29. ^ "Gunns abandons legal action against Greens leaders". ABC News Online. 13 December 2006. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Lyons, Brendan (1998). All Gunns blazing: J. and T. Gunn and the development of Launceston, 1871-1997. Launceston: Foot and Playsted. ISBN 0-9585990-6-8. 
  • Woodchips, lawsuits and democracy : a discussion of issues relevant to Tasmania in 2005. Sandy Bay, Tasmania: Now We the People. 2005. 
  • Greg Ogle (2005). Gunning for change : the need for public partication law reform. Hobart: Wilderness Society. 

External links[edit]