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Uncertainty remains for Gunn’s farmers

Tasmanian farmers owed millions of dollars after the collapse of timber company Gunns are yet to find out if they will recoup their money. Source: ABC

More than 100 farmers and 300 landholders who have Gunns plantations on their land are owed $16 million in rent.

They have met again to decide what to do with the plantations, but there was uncertainty about their options.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association’s Jan Davis said landowners had been in limbo since 2012 and were struggling.

“We’ve got elderly farming couples who have given their land over to Gunns as their retirement money, and of course now have no money to live on and no land that they can farm,” she said.

Sydney-based New Forests has bought 100,000 hectares of Gunns plantations in northern Tasmania, but the deal did not include farmers who have thousands more hectares of Gunns trees on their land.

Confusion remains about who owns the trees.

Another landowner, David Gatenby, said the delay was frustrating.

“We haven’t been paid any back-rent or any rent up until now and there’s no sign of any future rent and we’re very, very frustrated,” he said.

Farmers are considering three options: terminating the lease, harvesting the trees themselves or buying the trees from the liquidator.

“I don’t think we should have to buy the trees back when we’re owed so much rent,” Mr Gatenby said.

Landowner Robert Legge said the meeting did not provide many answers.

“The most important thing I’ve learnt is the landholders haven’t got much to stand on,” he said. “I’ve sort of resolved to the fact that if we ever get any money for trees, if we ever do it will be a bonus.”

Farmers were also reluctant to take legal action because of the costs involved.