typing is not activism….

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An Interview with Dr Warwick Raverty – Tuesday April 17: SWECO PIC, Premier Paul Lennon, the Tasmanian Pulp Mill Task Force, defamation, a retraction and due process

with 9 comments

A verbatim transcript of the first 12 minutes of a two hour interview conducted with Dr Warwick Raverty follows this introduction. Significantly, we spoke on the very day that Steve Kons announced SWECO PIC as the independent consultant chosen to assess the pulp mill proposal for the Tamar Valley and accordingly advise the Tasmanian Government.

More of this far-reaching discussion will be brought to you in the coming week, but the intention of this interview was to prepare for an article due out shortly. Having spoken with Tasmanian Time’s Lindsay Tuffin, to whom I’m sure many southerners are grateful for a kick-arse genuinely independent media source in Tassie (especially in times like these), here comes that part of the discussion which focused on the appointment of SWECO.

Pertinent to this interview, Dr Raverty is speaking on his own behalf, and his opinions and comments have nothing to do with his role in the CSIRO, or in the Joint venture Ensis, to which he is presently seconded. Notwithstanding this fact, in the course of our discussion he expressed sincere and strong appreciation for senior staff at the CSIRO who, while neither implicitly supporting nor condemning his views, have both supported and maintained his right to speak publicly on his own behalf despite pressures they themselves might be experiencing. Dr Raverty had 20 years experience in the kraft pulping and paper industry before joining CSIRO in 2000.

In further clarification on a genuinely unrelated matter, Dr Raverty would like to expressly withdraw any suggestion that Gunns will be storing vast quantities of chlorine on site which, if gasified, would kill everything in a fifteen kilometer radius. He has now been assured by Les Baker, representing Gunns, that all such potentially hazardous chemicals will be used in the mill as they are produced. Baker insists that they will not be stored in massive quantities on site as Raverty previously thought. Raverty maintains that this misunderstanding would not have occurred had all information about the operation of the mill been provided by Gunns in a clear and timely manner in the course of the now defunct RPDC panel’s assessment of the proposal’s detail.

Furthermore, Dr. Raverty is resolute in his intention to sue both Gunns’ chairman, John Gay, and Forest Industries Association of Tasmania CEO, Terry Edwards for defamation with regard to comments made publicly and in near echo of one another regarding his fitness to assess the pulp mill proposal or comment on the ongoing process. He also maintains that the Pulp Mill Task Force was the identifiable source of interference which prevented the panel from continuing beyond 2006 with its original members. He further maintains that if Premier Paul Lennon had adequately responded to requests made to him by Julian Green in 2005, as Lennon assured Green that he would, the PMTF could not have continued to interfere with the RPDC assessment process. However, it did so in a manner which ultimately enabled the potential perception of bias which forced both Julian Green and Warwick Raverty to step down in the belief that, by doing so, they could protect the integrity of the assessment process.

And now for the verbatim you were promised, dear readers,

Q. Not sure if you’ve already seen it but Steve Kons has just made his announcement today that….

WR Yep, I’ve seen all that – I’ve been to the SWECO PIC website. (laughing) I’m not impressed.

Q. Any particular reason – their record on dams in Vietnam or…

WR: No. I’m just focusing on their record in the pulp and paper industry. I’ve not heard of them before. None of my colleagues at the CSIRO have heard of them before. Their reference list for the pulp and paper industry seems to be mainly around paper and cardboard manufacture. They’ve been involved in a minor way with four pulp mills, none on, as far as I can see, providing this sort of information on environmental suitability. And one of the mills that they designed equipment for is the now infamous Arauco Valdivia bleached kraft pulp mill in Chile which has had to be shut because it polluted RAMSAR wetlands and caused mass killings of swans.

That’s been shut now?

WR: As I understand it, Valdivia’s more or less closed for the long term til they find out what caused the problem.

Was that comparable in size to the Gunns proposal, was it a million tonne a year mill as well?

WR: Maybe half a million, I haven’t kept that close to that one.

Oh, here it is. It’s in the letter from Jaakko Poyry that Gunns ran as an advertising supplement

WR: Oh, was it? I’m not sure whether Arauco have been allowed to started that up again. I haven’t kept that closely up on it but, there were certainly very severe problems with it and it was shut, or has been shut, for the best part of a year. Whether it’s reopened recently or not, I don’t know.

Yep, Valdivia, Chile…700 000 air dried tonnes per year

WR: Well, then it’s about sixty to seventy per cent, depending on which figures of Gunns you compare it to. As they’ve said, Gunns’ is planned to be 800 000 to 1.1 million tonnes

So then you’re saying perhaps that Tasmanians can’t be confident that a vastly experienced and well-qualified international consultant has been chosen to assess et cetera et cetera?

WR: I don’t think they can, no. The other point is that one of the companies that they give in their reference list on the web page is Andritz, who are a German company that have been selected by Gunns as the major suppliers of equipment to the pulp mill if it’s built. I don’t know if that reflects conflict of interest or not, but certainly a bit close for comfort when there are other consulting groups out there who wouldn’t have had the same close relationship with Andritz…If you go to the references list on their website and click on pulp and paper…Andritz there down the bottom, and basically Andritz provided a big new chemical recovery boiler for Pietarsaari kraft mill in Finland, operated by a big Finnish company called UPM Kymmene, and SWECO designed a whole lot of the pipe work and the odour control system for the recovery boiler. They didn’t supply the boiler itself but, um, nor did they do the environmental assessment for the recovery boiler – which is what they’re being asked to do by the Tasmanian Government.

They’ve got their 2003 overall business plan or economic outlook as well, which has a chapter ‘The Environment is our Business’ as well, in which their logic basically seems to be that because they stand to profit almost completely from the environment and because they plan to increase that aspect of their business by about 20 per cent a year, people should trust them to, um, focus on sustainability.

WR: Well there’s sustainability and there’s sustainability. One of the issues with this mill being built in the Tamar Valley, and I’m certainly on the record as saying that the Tamar Valley is not an appropriate location for the mill under the present approval system. I and many other people were prepared to keep an open mind for the RPDC, and even after I had to resign from the RPDC I was happy to let that process proceed completely unhindered. The Tamar Valley is one of the most challenging environments into which to put a kraft mill in Tasmania, simply because of the existing poor quality of air, and the high load of air pollutants – mainly from domestic wood heaters and other industrial discharges, particularly the Temco ferro-manganese alloy refinery at Bell Bay and the Bell Bay power station.

And there’s a perfectly good pulp mill site across on the north western side of Tasmania behind Burnie, at a small place called Hampshire – which is bang smack in the middle of Gunns eucalypt plantations, and, indeed, Gunns originally put in an application to do feasibility studies on both of those sites. Now Gunns, very early on, withdrew those applications and said it was not going to consider Hampshire because it was too expensive. Despite many attempts by the RPDC and official requests, Gunns had failed to give any detail to any information at all on the costs estimate differentials between Hampshire and Long Reach. Now, I’ve actually spoken to both the Mayor of the City of Burnie and the General Manager of the City of Burnie; they’re keen and willing to have this mill at Hampshire, which is in the area they administer. But Gunns, for reasons best known to themselves, and speculated on by the Tasmanian public, insist that it’s much too expensive there and that it should go in to Long Reach at Tamar.

Now, my experience of going to Launceston mainly and to Tamar is that I have yet to speak to anybody in the streets, and that’s mainly people of moderate views and dispositions – not the ‘deep green left’ – who want the mill at Long Reach. So you’ve got a situation where Gunns want it there, the Tasmanian Government wants it there, but by and large the electorate don’t want it there. The electorate, again, were prepared to wait for the RPDC decision but Gunns have unilaterally withdrawn from that process and everybody, almost to a man and a woman, is deeply suspicious of Gunns’ motives in withdrawing and insisting on the mill going into this valley which includes a lot of other ‘conflicting uses’, which include tourism, and vineyards and fisheries and so forth, all of which could be severely damaged by this mill – certainly tourism could be damaged by the mill – if it isn’t got exactly right.

My understanding is that tourism is already, right now, bringing as much money into the Tamar Valley every 3 – 4 years as Gunns own best case estimates suggest the mill will bring in in the next 20 years. So you see it’s arguably much much worse than a zero sum game for everyone but Gunns. Considering that the last kraft mill built in Europe, near Stendal, Germany in 2005 and half Gunns proposed size, received a 200 million Euro subsidy from the government of the European Union, I argue very strongly that either Federal Labour, or the Coalition should be promising in the coming election campaign up to $600 million in Government subsidies to make it attractive for Gunns to move this proposal to Hampshire if Gunns see sense and agree to abide by the Tasmanian and Commonwealth Environmental Guidelines TO THE LETTER. That would be a truly level playing field solution that would fix a big unemployment problem in Tasmania’s north-west and lift Australia out of its third-world status as an exporter of over 5 million tones per annum of wood chips into Japan and the rest of Asia. It’s the sustainable, common sense solution to what the Federal politicians see as a ‘poisoned chalice’ – that is probably why both Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Garrett particularly has been so reluctant to take an interest. With the Federal seats of Bass and Braddon in Tasmania being key in the November election, the 90% of Tasmanians (my estimate) who don’t want the mill at Bell Bay and would be happy to see it at Hampshire (including most of the few hundred people who live around Hampshire) need to make this a big Federal election issue. Those people will have my free, undying assistance in the endeavour.


Written by typingisnotactivism

April 21, 2007 at 4:10 pm

9 Responses

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  1. I can’t figure whether Dr Raverty is simply ignorant or delusional when he proposes a gigantic pulp mill for North West Tasmania.

    It doesn’t seem to matter in his mind that the air quality in the North West is NOT being monitored by the regulatory authorities. Like it is in the Tamar Valley. Even the local business-sponsored paper is filled with headlines about choking smoke and asthmatics being forced out of their homes for days on end – repeatedly – every Autumn and Spring. Like me.

    Dr Raverty is aware of the horrific environmental record of the State Government. He knows that Gunns Ltd has a very poor (if non-existent) local reputation for environmental management and social responsibility. Yet he sees no problems with such an entity being trusted with the management of a mill. Crosses his fingers and hopes that the State and Federal Governments will abide by their own environmental legislation.

    It appears logical to put further development on hold until there exists a well-established record of integrity. Why isn’t Raverty demanding such???

    See websites for more info on the North West. Unfortunately it is far from complete. Mine at:www.geocities.com/rosserbj

    Also: http://members.tassie.net.au/~cdibley/contents.html

    Brenda Rosser

    April 22, 2007 at 12:44 pm

  2. i hope that this excerpt will not only provoke some diverse comments, but be seen for what it is – 10% of a lengthy discussion which cannot be posted in its entirety just yet as other writing is uder way, and hopefully fresh info for people in Tassie who are following and effected by this process.

    Would also add that Dr Raverty did speak at length – as will be posted within the week – about the fact that the Swedish or Finnish notion of ‘odour free’ being very misleading, as most Swedes and Fins involved with pulp mills have lost their olefactory senses to sufficient extent over 10 years to miss out on the rotten cabbage, egg, and seaweed smell of which he and his panel were acutely aware when visiting ‘best practice’ mills – more on that soon – and also that he is speaking in his area of expertise – science, pulp mills, and the RPDC process – not, for example, the balancing of wood chip contractual obligations with pulp supply and how this will be balanced between native and plantation sources. He’s not suggesting carte blanche, he’s demanding that any process going ahead be thoroughly and genuinely adhered to.

    That said, there are going to be split opinions over this and i’m not contradicting you Brenda 🙂 – i just don’t plan to leave him hanging out in the breeze on a web page where he may not be popping in to speak further for himself. Hoping that people think about what he’s saying in the context of the last four months. Funnily enough, TWS wouldn’t endorse him for a speaking arrangement because he wouldn’t agree with what they wanted him to say – sounds a bit like a gig he ended up leaving in December.


    April 22, 2007 at 2:04 pm

  3. I forgot to say that there needs to be a more enlightening definition of ‘development’. Surely such a concept would not entail the destruction of biodiversity and family farms, contamination of the air with CO2, smoke and heavy metals and other toxins from ‘forestry burnoffs. Nor should it mean concentration of land ownership and control in the hands of transnational corporations. Blah, blah, blah. We’ve said it all before in subs to Government etc.

    Brenda Rosser

    April 22, 2007 at 2:31 pm

  4. good interview, I think Brenda, in the context of the Mill project that Dr Raverty states the Hampshire site would be better than Bell bay.

    In the context of environmental health a mill of that size would detrimental to Tasmania no mater where its put. A much smaller no export mill in an existing industrial area could supply Tassies own paper needs, eliminating imports and increasing self sufficiency.

    At the end of the day the fund would probably be better spent on a wider range of real sustainable projects.


    April 22, 2007 at 5:45 pm

  5. It is encouraging to see broader discussion of the equity issues for the State and its residents. The need to recognise the fundamental fact, that the massive supply necessary to feed a mill of its capacity, represents the greatest risk to Tasmania and its Brand.
    Regardless of where it is built, the type of process used, or how many are employed, that any wealth generated will leave the State, via Gunns’ dividends and returns on off-shore investment. The State will pick up the bills for the the damage to the environment, social fabric and infrastructure and its community will be forced to live with the consequences.

    I applaud Dr. Rafferty’s stand and willingness to exposure himself further to the pressures that come with speaking out against what he felt was wrong. Dr. Rafferty joins a long line of gutsy advocates that risk campaigns by powerful people who can make life extremely difficult. Well done sir. I hope others facing similar dilemmas will take some courage by your actions. The Gunns20 cases continue, like the Pulp Mill, altered, resubmitted, and fundementally flawed.

    Erika Ford

    April 23, 2007 at 3:49 pm

  6. ‘He has now been assured by Les Baker, representing Gunns, that all such potentially hazardous chemicals will be used in the mill as they are produced’ is another empty set of words.

    How are they to be backed up? Will Gunns give guarantees? How about liability in the event of such a disaster? What about real regulations and enforcement?

    None of these should present a problem if the proponent’s assurances turn out to be true.

    Yet it is the reverse, the government is doing everything to protect the proponent and doing nothing for the taxpayer. Unfortunately it is the taxpayer who will suffer if the mill operator decides to earn his bonus by saving money on pollution and odour control equipment.

    Communities deserve real protection and real consideration of their needs. If the government is not prepared to do that work, then it is hard to see why we need them at all.

    Mike Bolan

    April 23, 2007 at 6:56 pm

  7. I know where you are coming from, Brenda, in questioning the sanity of ANY enormous pulp mill anywhere in Tasmania. However, in defence of Dr Raverty, he is an expert in pulp mill technology, and as such an advocate for pulp mills in general. He has never hidden the fact that he thinks a pulp mill would be a good idea for Tasmania. I don’t happen to agree with him, because I can see the problems, as you can, with massive-scale industrial forestry. Again, in Dr Raverty’s defence, this is not his area of expertise – he knows about pulp mills. I applaud Dr Raverty for being very outspoken on this issue. Let him continue speaking out, even if everything he says does not fit everyone’s agenda entirely. I think he is a very honest and honourable man.

    Fron The Sacrifice Zone

    April 24, 2007 at 1:12 pm

  8. A big thank you to all of you have expressed support and indeed dissent for what I have said so far. Please remember that there is no ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’ people in battles like these – all fair-minded people are ‘in it’ together. I was ‘given’ (without HECS fees) the opportunity to complete a Ph D 34 years ago by that great Australian socialist, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies. I am very grateful for that opportunity and I see it as my resposibilty to use that gift for the good of as many Australians and other citizens of the world as I can. On the eve of that terrible landing on the beaches of Turkey 82 years ago, I recall that one of my grandfathers was wounded on that beach and my father fought impending tyranny as it percolated southwards through the jungles of New Guinea between 1942 and 1944. I am simply following a fine family tradition. Today of course, at least in Tasmania the situation is arguably worse – the ‘traitors’ are not just at the gate, they are walking the floors of the people’s parliaments making laws that would make ‘the fallen’ turn in their graves. It is up to all Australians who feel unease at what is happening in Tasmania, and in the rest of Australia, to make their concerns known to their elected representatives and to use the Australian law in whatever way they think appropriate to restore what our forefathers and mothers fought to preserve. Remember that for evil to prevail, it is only necessay for women and men of goodwill to do nothing. It is your democracy – make it work for you and for your community!

    Warwick Raverty

    April 24, 2007 at 9:14 pm

  9. […] legislatively appointed ‘independent’ consultant, Sweco Pic, has been given half a million dollars and less than three months to complete an […]

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