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Kathmandu founder buys into Tasmanian mill

Kathmandu founder buys into Tasmanian mill
Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron and Wotif creator Graeme Wood have bought a Tasmanian woodchip mill in a A$10 million deal, triggering fears for the future of the state's forestry industry.

The Gunns woodchip millThe Gunns woodchip mill in Tasmania. [Photo credit]

Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron and Wotif creator Graeme Wood have bought a Tasmanian woodchip mill in a A$10 million deal, triggering fears for the future of the state's forestry industry.

Ownership of Gunns' woodchip mill will officially change hands on Friday.

The mill at Triabunna on Tasmania's east coast was in the process of a controversial sale to a private company, which would have received a state loan as part of its purchase.

Local logging company Aprin says it was ready to pay Gunns $16 million.

Cameron told ABC radio: "I don't know what Aprin's bid was, so I can't comment on that. We paid $10 million.

"We're going to be guided by what comes out of the forest talks. We've agreed to operate the mill during that transition period. Most likely we will tender the mill out to an operator for this period, because obviously we have no experience in running woodchip mills.

"There will be consultation with local authorities, the Tasmanian Government to see what the best use of this site can be put to. 

Cameron and business partner Wood have previously said they would turn the mill into a tourism development.

Aprin co-owner Ron O'Connor says the sale will spell the end of the forest industry in Tasmania.

"Our industry is dead without the mill, we are dead and finished," he told ABC.

Other industry experts have voiced similar concerns. Forestry analyst Robert Eastment believes it signals the end of their native forests.

"I think there will be thousands of jobs lost. I think there's going to be a significantly smaller industry."

The Tasmanian government says the strategic importance of the mill cannot be underestimated, and hopes to meet with Cameron to discuss its future.

Deputy premier Bryan Green says one of the government’s key priorities is to ensure the future of a sustainable timber industry.

And Premier Lara Giddings says she hopes to work with Cameron and Wood to ensure a future for native forest.

She says the government supported Aprin's bid to take over the mill "through a legitimate and proper process", but the decision ultimately laid with Gunns.

“The Triabunna mill is a vitally important asset to the forest industry and we want to ensure it continues operating," she said in a statement.

“We fully understand the fears of the families and communities whose livelihoods depend on the mill’s continued operation, and will be seeking to represent their interests in any discussions with the new owners.”