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Tamar Pulp Mill 101 – the Dependent Assessment Process

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The Tasmanian pulp mill recently exploded into Australian media, putting a focus on public anger and political shadiness in Tasmania. Premier Paul Lennon gave a different version of events than a former Justice of the Supreme Court , and described Jaakko Poyry – the consultant employed by logging giant, Gunns – as ‘a world leading independent expert’ before a Parliament which looks set to pass one of the most poorly and destructively written laws in living memory. For both Liberal and Labor, this crisis of democracy may well become a Federal election issue. Like an open wound, the situation gets more intriguing the closer you look.

Tasmanians first learned that wood-chipping giant Gunns were discussing plans for a pulp mill with their Premier in June, 2003. There was no public announcement, no parliamentary consultation, not even a development application submitted.

Federal Greens Senator, Christine Milne said Paul Lennon and John Gay were having dinner in a restaurant in Hobart.

“They left the documentation, the Gunns Ltd Pulp Mill Proposal, on the table as they were discussing it,” she said.

“That’s where it began and, essentially, that’s where it’s also ended. It has been the relationship between Paul Lennon and John Gay that has ended up bringing the RPDC [Resource Planning and Development Commission] process unstuck.”

The RPDC independently oversees major projects in Tasmania. An expert panel of four members was appointed to assess the pulp mill proposal and advise the government. The most recent head of that panel was former Supreme Court Justice, the Honourable Christopher Wright.

Lennon and Gunns boss, John Gay, blamed the RPDC process for costly delays to approval of the mill.

Contrary to Wright’s version of events, Lennon denied producing a draft timeline to end the process by July 31. He also denied that at the same meeting on February 27 he had threatened to legislatively accelerate the process if this condition could not be met.

On March 22, Wright issued a statutory declaration supporting his version of events.

He added that he had felt great pressure from Lennon.

The assessment panel conducts a judicial process and, as such, interference can result in criminal charges.

Wright was not the first head the panel had lost. His predecessor, Julian Green, resigned from the panel and his position as Executive Commissioner in early January. Attorney General and Planning Minister Steve Kons said the 60-year-old had decided to take early retirement.

But Green’s resignation letter also cited political interference, chiefly the “activities of the government-funded Pulp Mill Task Force” as his reason for leaving.

Dr Warwick Raverty from the CSIRO, lead scientist of the assessment panel, also resigned. He too has spoken of political interference and has actively welcomed an inquiry into the affair. Many vocal Tasmanians feel that only a Royal Commission would suffice.

The benefit of such a measure would be to circumvent power networks that seem to control Tasmania. Former head of the Pulp Mill Task Force, Robert Gordon, has been named by Raverty as a major source of political interference. He left that position to take over as head of Forestry Tasmania – an essential business associate of Gunns.

Another business associate of Gunns is Jaakko Poyry. Poyry are to pulp mill and forestry as News Ltd are to media. Poyry consultants have provided a number of key submissions for Gunns which, based on information provided to them by Gunns, are supportive of the proposal.

In June 2004, Poyry consultant Rob De Fegely wrote an article for Poyry’s magazine promoting a major increase in logging in Australia, favouring pulp production in Australia, and specifically mentioning Tasmania and Gunns. He has since authored the ‘expert witness statement’ on pulp wood supply for the mill – in excess of 3 million tonnes annually – for Gunns’ Integrated Impact Statement (IIS).

In his speech on March 15 announcing that assessment would be undertaken by act of parliament, Lennon assured Tasmanians that in partnership with Jaakko Poyry – “a world leading independent expert”, his government and Gunns would ensure a world’s best practice outcome.

a computer artists' presentation of the new mill, taken from gunnspulpmill.com.au. reading the IIS confirms that parts of it will indeed be painted green, but whether it will be the world's greenest is still a question to be answered.Had the RPDC process not been scuttled, the proposal for a pulp mill would still be on a fast track. Since RPDC assessment is subject to a bilateral agreement with the Federal Government, no further assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act would have been required following approval.

Gunns spokesman Tony Harrison maintains that Gunns fully submitted to the process and has been misrepresented over its role in the matter – particularly over concerns that public consultations had been dropped.

“There’s been enormous public participation. This project has been public for four years. It’s normally two and a half years,” he said. “How much longer must we go on? In the time that this project has been considered, two pulp mills have been built in other countries while we’ve been sitting here considering this.”

But in June 2005 – on the final day for public comment on guidelines for the project’s impact statement – Gunns tripled the size of the proposed site to 650 hectares and added a new wharf. Another, less publicised change, was the request for 30-year access to native timber.

Major clarifications to Gunns’ economic impact statement regarding impact on local communities and industries, as well as effects of fluctuating world currencies and pulp prices – were withheld from the RPDC. Although required by the end of 2006, these were not supplied until February this year – shortly before Gunns abandoned the process.

And of recent pulp mills Tasmania missed out on, one although the Tamar facility would empty into Bass Strait near seals, rather than into a wetland with swans, the fact sheet at gunnspulpmill.com.au specifically says that effluents from pulp mills pose no dangers to rivers or wetlands. click on this link, then locate and download the Valdivia presentation by Dr. Eduardo Jaramillo for the methodology of his Chilean study on the swans.has been linked to the death of roughly six thousand rare black necked swans. The endangered colony in Rio Cruces, Chile, has been destroyed by heavy metal poisoning and starvation linked to contaminated marine vegetation.

Asked if Gunns had received any federal assurances of priority for federal EPBC Act assessment, Harrison replied: “Gunns have been discussing this with the Federal Government but it’s not going to conduct its affairs through the media.”

It is not yet clear how Federal Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, will handle the proposal. In an area where environmental flows are already limited by the Hydro Project, it will consume 70 million litres of water per day.

Bob McMahon from Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill (TAP) said the Federal Government needed to hold a Royal Commission or an independent judicial inquiry. “There’s so much that’s unanswered, so much that needs investigating. They can’t let this ride – this is a festering wound,” he said.

“This is not a pulp mill issue anymore. It is far more serious. It is an issue of how government is supposed to work and how it has wholly failed us here in Tasmania.”

an actual pulp mill - Humboldt in California, image grabbed from pbase.com. the Gunns pulp mill will run through the night and require full, though not necessarily similar, lighting at the facility and on roads into the plant.McMahon runs a rock climbing school, has authored a number of books on mountaineering, and is a practicing tree surgeon. TAP’s consultants include master foresters, systems analysts, economists and scientists.

While local food, wine and tourism industries expect their businesses will be devastated if the mill goes ahead, mitigation of even these economic and social impacts is not compelled by new legislation.

Lennon’s office was contacted for right-of-reply about alleged interference with a judicial process, misrepresentation to the Parliament of consultants hired by Gunns as ‘independent’ and support for a process that excises both public consultation and legal challenge. After a week of not returning calls, spokesperson Sue Bailey responded: “I’m not going to speak to you after the tone of those questions.”

At time of going to press, Dr Raverty was returning to Hobart after delivering a speech in Launceston. It began “Tasmania’s twin towers of democracy are about to be knocked down by the terrorists of Tasmanistan”.

An hour before coming on stage, Raverty had received a call from his boss at the CSIRO. Les Baker, Gunns’ chief for the yet-to-be-built mill, had called to say that if the CSIRO would not compel Raverty to be silent, Gunns would be “less supportive” of the CSIRO in future. Perhaps silence could be legislated.


Written by typingisnotactivism

March 27, 2007 at 10:42 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Adding to this story. Even the Resource Planning and Development Commission (RPDC), would not accept consideration of the environmental and social impacts of the management of the feedstock for the proposed pulp mill. That is, Tasmania’s native forests and huge areas of chemical-dependent monoculture tree plantations.

    This is no small oversight. Tasmania’s streams and rivers are continually contaminated with nitrates,triazines, MCPA, and other pesticides being tested for. (And only a handful of the thousands used are tested with sites chosen for their maximum dilution potential by the compromised State Primary Industries and Water Department).Some pesticides, like Haloxyfop Methyl, have no regime available for testing residues even though it is classified as a ‘probably carcinogen’, sprayed over huge areas and migrates to the edible parts of agricultural crops.

    Native forests continue to be clearfelled, a little of it harvested for use, the rest piled up and burnt using napalm-like substances, and then replaced by more industrial tree monocultures. However, Senator Abetz publicly proclaims that the huge number of Autumn forestry burn-offs now occuring in this State are all ‘regeneration’ burns. Native forest is rarely regenerated anymore and the scale of burning is absolutely stupendous and cannot, in any sense, be compatible with even a fair response to our global warming crisis.

    The Federal Court Wielangta ruling meanwhile has resulted in the Federal and State Government colluding (in late February 2007) to change the Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) so the word ‘protect’ has nothing but a meaning defined by Government. Not the courts, not anyone else. It is no longer a word based on a realist assessment of the environment. So the whole context of any ‘forest-dependent’ enterprise has been revolutionised long after the public had a chance for any input. Any responses are now effectively null and void as the context and circumstances have changed so much in the meantime.

    The story goes on an on. On the 15 September 2006 – long after public submissions were sent in – Gunns Ltd’s consultant Toxico issued a ‘notice of erratum’ relating to the ‘human health risk assessment’ in Gunns’ IIS. Dioxin figures for the proposed Tasmanian pulp mill were figured up by a factor of 45. …


    Brenda Rosser

    March 30, 2007 at 12:06 pm

  2. Yes, it’s a shocker, seems to have built into a predictable frenzy of contempt on both sides. We surely need fundemental changes to our system of democracy.

    If this mill can’t pass muster on environmental guidelines then maybe a better use of the available investment funds could be looked at.


    Tasmania, Explore the Possibilities

    Possible alternative uses for the proposed pulp mill budget.

    Tasmanian members of SCUM (the State Civilian Underground Movement) have recently uncovered a discarded memo between Gunn’s research division and the office of Environment Minister for the Tasmanian government.

    This memo was found at the Hobart City Council rubbish tip and indicates that an alternative use for the $1.5 Billion budget has been mooted and rejected by both Gunn’s and the Lennon administration.

    Notes attached to the memo outline proposed alternate funding to establish various resource based projects plus a brief outline on how this proposed use of the funding could result in more available jobs, compliance with the Environmental Protection acts and establishes long term renewable industries that would give a greater ‘bang for buck’ in terms of the long term benefit to Tasmanians with regards to growth and ’21st century’ business opportunities.

    The key motives behind the proposed projects are self sufficiency replacing import/export dependency, sustainability of natural resources replacing exploitation and long term growth of both these motivations. The memo also states that that it is unlikely the proposed mill site will pass stringent environment guidelines and it also unlikely that access to bulk chip wood from old growth forests will continue and that this is a valuable opportunity to relocate the targeting of the available funds and provide both Gunn’s Ltd and the Tasmanian people with a much better return that will be to the benefit of all Tasmanians and put Tasmania on the map as a State that is genuine about long term employment via sustainable and renewable business practices.

    An outline of the proposed budget and projects that could be funded is listed below.

    1.5 billion For pulp mill Equal investment of those funds in renewable industries ensuring long term job prospects for Tasmanians.

    1. $400 million seed investment into wind generator production plant. This includes a feasibility study, research and development, training, production plant design and construction. This is to take advantage of the growth in wind generator needs worldwide and position Tasmania as a Leader in harnessing this technology. A tentative name for this project is Taswind. (This will provide a production facility for the existing Roaring Forties project)

    2. $300 million into smaller scale pulp mill for Tasmanian only paper production (non export) including recycling plant. This will take advantage of our existing plantation resources, alternate pulp production and seek to supply all of Tasmania’s paper needs thus reducing our dependence on importing paper resources. A tentative name for this project is Taspaper.

    3. $200 million in the development of a biodiesel production facility using Tasmania grown rapeseed and other vegetable oils. The goal of this initiative will be to supply ALL of Tasmania’s diesel fuel needs within 10 years, from Tassie grown green fuel supplies.This will supply heavy mahcinery, allow lower costs and achieve environmental sustainability whilst boosting employment.

    4. $100 million into testing and land acquisition for alternative pulp products such as Hemp and flax. It is intended that available farmlands can be use for the growth of renewable pulp products and that this will result in increased employment opportunities and much stronger sustainability that wood based pulp.A tentative name for this project is Taspulp.

    5. $50 millions for purchase of lands and planting of truffles to ensure future income and employment. The alternative crop market has grown rapidly in recent years and Truffles are a low investment/high return crop and it is possible that investment in this area could have stronger economic yields than other land use options.

    Whilst there are existing Tasmanian Truffle companies this one would be publicly owned and the tentative name is Tastruffles.

    6. $25 million into Tasmanian self sufficiency industries, that is Tasmanians supplying Tasmanian markets ensuring jobs and income for Tasmanians.

    This initiative is to fully research and develop planning and management practices based around the concept of limiting imports and increasing Tasmanian generated products. It is foreseen that this kind of planning will result in much stronger employment prospects for Tasmanians in the long term. The resources indicated in this are household supplies, clothing supplies building supplies, home wares and other commonly used items. Tentativley titled Tasself.

    7. $300 million for land acquisition and replanting of cleared lands with multi species plantations. This is intended to maximise use of current cleared lands, provide lands for regeneration and alternative crop allocations and in general make better use of lands that have been cleared since settlement. Tentatively titled Tasland

    8. $10 million into broad scale feasibility study and planning documents for a ‘whole ‘Tasmania’. That is an integrated approach to the various needs of our society that put the needs of Tasmanians and our environment first.

    9. $ 100 million towards the setup of a Tasmanian food based management and production companies that will seek to enure that a maximum of Tasmanians food needs are supplied from with the state, limiting imports, generating income and make self sufficiency the priority of Tasmanian production not income generation.

    This project will work along the taself sufficiency initiative but add focus purely on the supply of food to tasmanians.Tentativley called Tasfood.

    10. $15 million For marketing and promotion of these initiatives.

    *it is proposed that an equal amount could also be raised by allowing public investment in these projects by Tasmanian owned companies and individuals.

    It was reported by SCUM that the memo and a roughly scrawled cross through it in red marker and was obscurely initialled PL.

    note from typingisnotactivism: the whole ‘Tasmanian situation’, aka ‘the Pulp Mill Clusterf#%$k’ is so beyond belief at this point that I mistakenly pipped the preceding comment as serious. To clarify, please go here for the promotional campaign found with the ‘smoking gun’ memo. these are good thought-provokers; one of the richest men in China now was a solar developer forced to leave Australia to get into production with his leading edge tech a few years ago.

    the arbor-realist

    March 30, 2007 at 12:45 pm

  3. It is difficult to know where to start in this sorry Gunns pulp mill saga. David and Goliath may be a good metaphor, except that David has only just started lessons in stone throwing 101 whilst Goliath has morphed into three powerful foes (the State Premier, Gunns and forestry lobby). We are still developing the community tools for increasing ‘situational awareness’ that is essential in successfully waging warfare. To this end http://www.tapvision.info aims to document the unfolding saga and help focus the immense feelings of anger in Tasmania over the Gunns pulp mill Goliath before we lose a clean sustainable future. But time is so short.


    March 30, 2007 at 1:05 pm

  4. ‘Tasmanistan’ is so apt in describing our little island. Whenever I fly across Bass Strait to the big island it reminds me of travelling between West and East Europe before the Wall was pushed over.
    Thank goodness for these forums that save your sanity. The advertising blitz in our Mercury this week, the bullying environment, of people who question the soundness of this kind of pulp mill being sited in a major Northern River, the Tamar, create frustration at what sort of information the public are getting.
    There is a lot of money going into propaganda, and its impact hard to judge because of its intensity, leaving no time to sit back and take breath. It’s not pretty.
    Listening to talk back, reading the local rag, local current affairs, the public response seems to be at a rough estimate 90% against what has happened. This is not a proper quantitive analysis. It is observation. Without an election due till 2010, other wheels of arms of democratic government, surely have to look critically at this latest process of dismissing a public authority set up to assess resource, planning and development at the behest of a big company with a dubious record of accountability and transparency.

    Laurene Kelly

    March 30, 2007 at 2:44 pm

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