Impacts of plantations for the proposed pulp mill
The expanding area of plantations intended to feed the proposed pulp mill, is already having a major impact on the state.
Plantations lock in water shortages. Over 40 of Tasmania’s 48 water catchments are affected by thirsty plantation trees drawing water out of the ground and lowering the water table. Consumption of water by expanding plantations in the headwaters affects everyone downstream. When plantations exceed 8% of the catchment area, river flow audits show declining water levels particularly during dry summer months as evaporation rates increase (D. Leaman).
Plantations compete for water with irrigators, farmers, domestic consumers and the environmental flows needed to sustain river health. Changes in land use to plantations lock in patterns of water consumption for decades, at a time of declining rainfall from climate disruption. Tax subsidised plantations are taking water that could be used to make Tasmania the food bowl of Australia.
Read more about the impacts on farming, health and safety, tourism and about the politics of land use at Impacts of plantations for the proposed pulp mill
Jobs jobs jobs! How many new pulp mill jobs?
Creation of new jobs is the central pillar in the case for winning the hearts and minds of Tasmanians for Gunns’ proposed pulp mill. Gunns’ CEO John Gay said the “mill would create jobs and long-term job security for a significant part of Tasmania's workforce.” (Examiner, 16-4-09). This position is echoed by the Forest Industry Association of Tasmania chairman, CFMEU forestry division, Timber Communities Australia, the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and both Liberal and Labor parties, as well as some northern council mayors.
The promise of thousands of new jobs helped ex-Premier Paul Lennon justify rescuing the ‘critically non compliant’ Gunns pulp mill in 2007 with a special act of Parliament, the Pulp Mill Assessment Act (PMAA). The other main pillar of support for quickly passing the PMAA, the urgency of Gunns’ commercial needs, has now been discredited. However, the creation of new jobs remains as the central justification for the project by Liberal and Labor. Labor is positioning itself for the 2010 March election as the pro-jobs party and the Greens as anti-jobs.
What we are asked to believe
There are several competing stories around the pulp mill proposal that we are asked to believe. We can choose to believe Gunns’ PR man Matt Horan, who says it will create 2000 construction jobs (Examiner 19-4-09), or we can believe Gunns’ secret advice to the George Town Council engineer that only 1250 building workers are needed (Examiner 22-3-08). We can choose to believe Horan that the pulp mill will create “about 16,000 jobs in the future," (Examiner, 19-4-09) or we can believe consultant ITS Global that it will create only 292 direct long term jobs (ITS Global, Review of the Social and Economic Benefits of the Gunns Limited Pulp Mill Project 2007).
We can believe Gunns’ stated wishes that underskilled Tasmanians with no experience in pulp mills will get preference over skilled outsiders from interstate or the thousands of overseas experienced pulp workers who have been made redundant in the global downturn. Further, we can believe that the fourth largest kraft chemical pulp mill in the world will happily co-exist with fishing, tourism and nature-based activities, boutique wineries, organic food producers and farming (Michael Aird ABC 26 Sep 09).
We are also asked to believe the Liberal and Labor story that Tasmania as a provider of undifferentiated bulk commodities is better than one based on the State’s distinctive and unique attributes that give businesses in tourism, fishing, wineries, organic foods, and others a competitive edge.
The consequences of choosing to believe the wrong story are serious. So what are the job facts and which story stands up?
Read more at Jobs jobs jobs! How many new pulp mill jobs?
Five compelling facts
The planned Tamar Valley pulp mill story is complex but cut to the chase with five compelling facts that have continued to drive strong community opposition for more than four and half years.
- Siting the world’s fourth-largest kraft pulp mill in a picturesque valley that traps pollution and is home to 100 000 people.
- Refusal by the government to assess the socio-economic costs including job losses in tourism, wineries, agriculture and fishing, declining property values and damage to health.
- Corrupted government fast-track assessment including paying a foreign pulp mill maker for ‘approval’, and legislating to block taxpayers from seeking damages.
- Government acceptance of spurious reasons for Gunns’ withdrawal from independent assessment when critical deficiencies were due to be exposed.
- The diversion of government funds away from failing essential services (hospitals and schools) to subsidise forestry and the mill (between $250m and $360m/year).
Fugitive odours - issues continue unresolved
On 6 July 2005, the Resource Planning and Development Commission wrote a confidential letter to John Gay of Gunns detailing two major concerns with the planned pulp mill. These were that:
- the proposed process for making chlorine dioxide is not considered accepted modern technology and would breach Tasmanian guidelines and possibly breach the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, and
- that the mill has no plans for controlling fugitive odours from hundreds of emission points (drains, pump seals, pipe connections and vessels) which will cause significant nuisance and diminution in quality of life for people living in the mill area.
On the 12 July 2005, John Gay responded:
- that Jaako Poyry have advised Gunns that the chlorine dioxide process can be demonstrated as accepted modern technology, and,
- that fugitive emissions issue will be addressed in the Integrated Impact Statement.
The State Labor Government refused to allow the two letters to be tabled in Parliament (1 July 09).
Despite claims by Gunns, the control of fugitive odours has still not been addressed according to pulp and paper expert Dr Warwick Raverty. Concerns over the non standard method for making chlorine dioxide remain.
Go to for more information and to download the two confidential letters Fugitive odours
Hydrodynamic Modelling of the Bell Bay Outfall
by M. Herzfeld, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart, Dec 2007.
The report by CSIRO's Dr Mike Herzfeld was finally made public (29 Jan 09) by Gunns after months of resisting its release. Greens Christine Milne had been trying to get the report released under Freedom Of Information but had been blocked by Gunns. The Company released the report just ahead of a departmental review of the FOI request.
The report found "The (64-million litre treated effluent) plume frequently undergoes extremely large, rapid, variations in position". In low current speeds the effluent would pool at the surface,"and as currents increased, it did not simply mix back to low concentrations, but would be transported many kilometres from the outfall. The modelling report found that concentrations in excess of the permit conditions would occurr in Commonwealth waters on almost a daily basis.
The behaviour of the effluent plume generated by the Gunns' consultants (GHD) modelling appears "highly likely to be erroneous". Go to Bass Strait effluent modelling.
It's time to stop and get off the Gunns pulp mill merry-go-round
As the community campaign against the Gunns pulp mill proposed for the Tamar Valley enters its fifth year, federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has set a new deadline of March 3, 2011, for Gunns to complete hydrodynamic modelling of effluent dispersal into Bass Strait.
The extension condemns the people of Tasmania — the communities of the Tamar Valley in particular — to at least two more years of uncertainty and conflict. Investment in the region will continue to dry up because of the continuing threat of the pulp mill. The property market collapsed years ago — an analysis of sales figures for 2003 and 2008 show a 75% decline — and people have held off investing for four years in the hope that the mill plan will be knocked on the head.
Gunns has continually failed to meet deadlines and has continually been granted extensions. It's like playing "pass the parcel" to a cracked record. The music never stops and the parcel goes round and round. Bob McMahon TAP Spokesman, January 8, 2009. To read more go to Pulp Mill Merry Go Round.
Is Gunns Ltd Reliable?
Pulp and paper expert Dr Warwick Raverty, reached the “sad conclusion that Gunns is not a fit and proper company to build a pulp mill anywhere” in Tasmania (14 March 2007). That conclusion is supported in the document Is Gunns Ltd Reliable?, a record of nearly 200 statements from CEO John Gay and Gunns Ltd, and State and Federal governments relating to the planned pulp mill in the Tamar Valley.
Its purpose is to help potential investors assess Gunns' competence to build and operate one of the largest pulp mills in the southern hemisphere.
The statements have been collated by TAP Research from media reports, documentaries and publications from 2004 to the present and are hyperlink referenced for easy checking. The document will be updated periodically as new evidence emerges.
Download the 16 page pdf document, updated 6 June 09, from below.
Did you know?
The proposed pulp mill is (April 2011):
- yet to secure access for a water pipeline
- yet to be approved for finance
- yet to be signed off by the Gunns Board
- opposed by two thirds of Tasmania's population
Government's failure to govern for the people
The State government promotes only the benefits of the pulp mill, and hides the losses to:
- farming and food supplies: crops can deliver four times more value for water used in irrigation than in plantations
- water supplies: 2megalitres/ha/year more water is lost from plantations than farmlands or native forests
- roads and bridges from heavy log truck traffic
- fishing jobs and export markets: it takes only one Bass Strait fish contaminated by dioxin to lose export markets
- public health and safety: fog 'white out' risk and more deaths from particulate pollution
- house values: buyers avoid pulp mill smells
- tourism businesses: damage to 'clean green' brand
Gains for some ...
Estimated subsidies to Gunns from both state and federal levels of government:
- One time capital costs = $399m (so far)
- Ongoing taxpayer-funded support = $360m/yr
- Cost if mill operates for 30 years = $10.8bn (30 yrs x $360m/yr)
- Total over 30 years = $11.2bn
- $15m compensation should future laws disrupt the supply of wood to the proposed pulp mill anytime in the next 20 years. The State Government has now ruled out compensation for disruption to wood supplies (30 November 2008)
... mean losses for others
The Australian Medical Association’s Public Hospital Report Card 2008 (November 08) revealed Tasmania’s elective surgery waiting times, up 40% in the past decade, are among the worst in Australia. “The A.M.A. has put Tasmania last on key health indicators and is calling on government to take immediate action to repair our public hospital system.”
Click on the links for more information
- White out fogs. The pulp mill assessment process has missed a hitherto unrecognised higher risk of traffic fatalities on the East Tamar Highway resulting from the water vapour from Gunns proposed 1.1 million tonne per annum pulp drier. This will discharge huge volumes of water vapour only 8-10 metres above ground level - NOT from the proposed 130 metre 'main stack'. A similar situation in Bowater Paper Company's pulp mill in Chattanooga, Tennessee caused 'white out' fogs that in 1990 led a massive pile up on a highway and 12 dead. See Unrecognised fog hazard of the Tamar Pulp Mill
- Gunns pipeline offer to landowners, according to legal professionals, carries considerable risks to those who sign up. The pipeline is intended to carry water from Lake Trevallyn some 30kms to the pulp mill site at Long Reach on the Tamar River. See the Plain English guide to the offer by Gunns to landowners.
- Legal challenge. Lawyers for Forests is seeking judicial review of the Federal Environment Minister’s decision to approve Gunns’ Tamar Valley pulp mill. The judicial review process challenges the way the Minister made the decision to approve the pulp mill on 9 grounds. Legal challenge by Lawyers For Forests.
- Pulp mill risks from the perspective of pulp and paper expert Dr Warwick Raverty. Read the transcript of a lecture delivered to a crowded hall in March 2007, Launceston. Gunns pulp mill risks
- Analysis of the strategic environment surrounding the pulp mill approval process and the main areas to focus efforts to stop the mill. Strategic analysis
- Some inconvenient truths for Gunns proposed pulp mill. Facts the Tasmanian Government and Gunns Ltd don’t want people to know about the proposed Tamar valley pulp mill, Tasmania, Australia. Some inconvenient truths for Gunns
- Pulp mill site on banks of Tamar River. The 'world scale' pulp mill project site will occupy approximately 600 ha on the banks of Long Reach south of Bell Bay, Tamar River, Tasmania. The area is shown in red and the mill site at the yellow dot (Gunns IIS). Pulp mill site at Long Reach, Tamar valley
- Unequal influence of big business. How donations to political parties are linked to the conversion of farmland to trees at taxpayers expense Federal cash on demand
- All benefits but no costs. The benefits of the pulp mill are spruiked by the Tasmanian Government, but ... Why-are-they-hiding-the-cost
- The lure of $1.5 billion. The business of investing in a pulp mill that is manufactured in Finland and assembled in Tasmania works this way. Pulp mill ‘investment’
- Unrepresentative government. For Sale "Tasmania". Exciting features. Agents Lennon, Green, Kons and Associates. For Sale
- Democracy "Tasmanian style". Pulp mill promises in 2004 and reality in 2007. The Premier's promise
- All 'bark' but no teeth. Lennon's 'tough' guidelines allow a mill to stink out the Tamar valley for 2 years before the regulator even makes a phone call! The new meaning of 'tough'
- Wrong mill in the wrong place. The State Government wants the pulp mill to be built in the Tamar valley which is regularly subject to thermal inversions and air pollution. Launceston's air
- A world scale mill and plantations on a small island. The plantations for the proposed ‘world scale’ pulp mill are too large for Tasmania’s water supplies. Catchments-impacted-v2 Tasmanian-water-use1.jpg