Questions surround the future of the last newsprint mill in Australasia with Norske Skog looking for a buyer of its Boyer mill site in Hobart.
The Norway-headquartered company has closed newsprint capacity in Albury, NSW and Kawerau, New Zealand, selling both sites.
It accepted $4 million of government aid last year, but is now reported to have been trying to sell the Boyer mill site for most of that period.
However, a spokesperson told Sydney Morning Herald media writer Calum Jaspan that Norske Skog was “committed to the future of newspapers”.
The company acquired the mill – which was established in 1941 and has a staff of more than 250 – in 2000.
According to the Herald, “it assessed the site as an attractive asset for potential buyers looking to take advantage of the government’s regulatory demand for renewable energy in the state”.
The paper quoted “a person close to the company” that there had been a number of expressions of interest, but no purchaser.
Newsprint costs for Australian newspapers rose between 30-40 per cent afterNorske Skog renegotiated terms with major publishers last year. News Corp Australia is now the country’s largest newspaper printer, producing papers for Herald publisher Nine Entertainment and Australian Community Media, as well as its own, at print centres in Darwin, Townsville, Yandina, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
The spokesperson said Norske Skog wanted to “further develop” the Boyer industrial site and that the location was “attractive for green industrial players to develop new biomaterials and renewable energy either on their own or in partnership with Norske Skog Boyer”.
Jaspan’s source also mooted the possibility of Norske Skog leasing back the paper-making assets, “with the mill taking up only about ten per cent of the site”.
A closure “would probably mean the end of print products for many of Australia’s regional or independent publishers, due to the high cost of importing paper,” he said.
Like other newsprint producers, Norske Skog has closed newsprint capacity around the world, creating demand despite global declines in consumption. The company says prices rose in response to “soaring energy and shipping costs, and reduced demand”.
Last year the mill received a $4 million grant from Tasmanian and federal governments, which it says “allowed it to reduce emissions, keep down costs and continue to provide an Australian source of newsprint”.
At the time, general manager Patrick Dooley said that, with Norske Skog’s A$2.9 million commitment, would be deployed to support the mill’s long-term future.
These included “bringing forward work to examine the opportunity to reduce greenhouse emissions by about 160,000 tons of CO2 a year” which was to begin immediately.
Pictured: The Boyer mill