Greedy Gunns – Having Their Chips, And Eating Them Too.
The impact statement which Gunns felt sure would land them a pulp mill in Tasmania’s scenic Tamar Valley has been deemed inadequate, inaccurate and incomplete at 7500 pages. At over 10,000 pages, it remains so.
But the document has reluctantly yielded nuggets of truth. It is now clear why Gunns is resisting pressure to relocate the proposal to its large plantation estate at Hampshire in the state’s north.
According to Wilderness Society (TWS) spokesperson Vica Bayley, documents within the Integrated Impact Statement for the pulp mill reveal the entire Hampshire plantation estate is to be exported as woodchips.
Japan, a major market for Gunns’ woodchip exports, is reducing imports of native and old growth woodchips because of ethical concerns and preference for softer paper sources.
“Gunns is running out of markets for native forest and old growth woodchips,” Bayley said. “The business strategy now is about building a pulp mill so they can feed those woodchips into the mill, sanitise them, put them one step up the processing chain, and flog it to whoever will take it.”
Cutting through privately commissioned claims of economic nirvana championed by Premier Paul Lennon has been arduous but in late August, the Tasmanian Roundtable for Sustainable Industries (TRSI) released detailed and far-reaching economic modelling.
Growth was estimated at one-fifth of Lennon’s forecast: according to TRSI, the $834 million Gunns may pay in tax over the first 24 years of the mill’s life will be offset by the previously omitted $848 million collected in subsidies over that time.
TRSI also project more than 1300 jobs and more than $1.6 billion will be lost by farm, fishery and tourism industries in direct impacts and lost opportunities resulting from the mill.
“It’s as everyone had expected. It’s just that nobody had the time or resources to drill down into it,” said Bayley. “That’s extremely concerning but not surprising, and it’s just another reason to stop the pulp mill.”
When Tassie’s leading daily, The Mercury, recently asked, “should the Gunns’ pulp mill go ahead?” 42 readers voted ‘yes’, 6449 voted ‘no’. The same week, Lennon rated 24 per cent job approval in a poll of more than 1000 Tasmanians.
There’s a Wilderness Society appeal before the Federal Court, Geoffrey Cousins and Bill Heffernan are on a rampage, anonymous Gunns executives are breaking rank, and even Bob Brown has promised support for the mill if it is based at Hampshire, is water-efficient and strictly plantation-fed.
Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull is the Tamar’s last hope. Given the $200 million he pledged to Asian countries to fight deforestation, those concerned for the Tasmanian environment hope he can pledge an investment in credibility and transparency – two elements fatally absent from the current process.