Rail idea for woodchips
A TRANSPORT expert says increased traffic caused by a proposed $42 million woodchip port could be alleviated by a Derwent Valley rail revival.
The Southwood Fibre proposal is tipped to create 135 jobs during construction.
It would involve transporting woodchips from the Southwood wood processing facility on logging roads to the export loading facility overlooking Port Esperance at Strathblane, just south of Dover.
The project’s draft development application was inadvertently provided to the Greens as part of a request made under Right to Information laws.
The development application says the plant would operate around the clock and process 800,000 tonnes of woodchips a year.
It reveals there would be 800 to 900 truck journeys a week — mostly B-doubles — along the route, through the Esperance Conservation Area on their way to Dover.
Another 800 truck movements a week will be needed to bring the logs to the mill for chipping from forests around southern Tasmania.
The proposal is opposed by many locals, the tourism industry and fish farmer Tassal, which has leases in Port Esperance.
Transport consultant John Livermore said in an opinion piece for the Mercury, the Gazette’s parent publication, there could be an alternative to the proposed woodchip port.
In 2004 Mr Livermore gave a paper to the Association of Australian and New Zealand for the Advancement of Science which looked at the Southwood Report of Forestry Tasmania.
“This report considered various routes for carrying out timber products from the Huon including saw logs. I supported its proposal for using the Lane Link Rd through the Styx Valley,” Mr Livermore wrote.
“Steve Kerrison, then chief executive of Pacific National, indicated that a transfer station could be built at Karanja for $1 million to enable railing via the Derwent Valley Railway line through to Bell Bay or Burnie.”
Former MLC Tony Mulder put a case for reopening the DVR line using Karanja as railhead for the carriage of woodchips in May 2015.
“The DVR is state owned and leased to Tasrail,” Mr Livermore wrote.
“The Derwent Valley Railway Association has plans for tourism operations to Mount Field National Park. However, a completion date depends on access to the line being secured by the association from the State Government.
“The line from Norske Skog paper mill is open and operational to Bridgewater for freight.
“The question is, against the $42 million for the establishment of the Dover woodchip project, what would it cost to rehabilitate the DVR line to take freight woodchips?
“There is also the consideration of the tourism aims of the DVR line and their compatibility with a freight task. No current estimates exist for the cost of this upgrading of the DVR line. “TasRail’s broad estimate of the cost for its own internal purposes for freight upgrades to the DVR line would be $60 million.”
Forest Industries Association of Tasmania chief Terry Edwards said last month the project was on hold while Southwood and Tassal discussed coexistence issues.