“The Company now regretfully advises that the lender group has informed the Company that the lenders will not permit the Company to retain further funds, which are necessary to meet the operational and working capital requirements of the business.”

And with those dry words, Gunns may have brought 30 years of forest wars to a close.

The once-mighty Tasmanian timber giant entered voluntary administration this morning, crippled by debt and by doubts over its salvation — the pulp mill that never was. This has always been a fight to the death between environmentalists and the company. It seems we have a winner.

Exactly what this decision means for plans for a pulp mill, and for the vexed native forest peace plan in Tasmania, remains to be seen. But Tasmania will not be the same again, and this move may have wider ramifications for the extraction of low-value products from native forests elsewhere.

Tasmania will be riven today by celebration and anguish, as it has so many times before over the state’s magnificent — and sometimes lucrative — native forests. This time could be the last time.

The challenge for both sides will be to pull together to chase away the monkey that is never too far away from Tasmania’s back: economic contraction and unemployment.

Peter Fray

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