21 April 2011 300 join class action against Gunns
MORE than 300 shareholders who have collectively lost tens of millions from their investment in timber group Gunns have joined a class action launched by law firm Maurice Blackburn.
The shareholder action was filed in the Federal Court of Sydney yesterday afternoon.
It alleges Gunns breached its disclosure obligations because it knew its financial position had deteriorated significantly ahead of the release of its first-half 2010 results yet failed to adequately warn the market of the situation. The Australian
20 April 2011 Forestry Tasmania Owed $40 Million Mostly By Gunns
FORESTRY Tasmania is under severe financial pressure because it is owed nearly $40 million by major customers -- twice the amount of four years ago
Forestry Tasmania's major customer is Gunns Ltd, with which it has a 20-year long-term pulpwood supply agreement for 1.5 million green metric tonnes a year. It also has a sawlogs and other products agreement with Gunns until 2017. The Mercury
6 April 2011 No New Assessment of Pulp Mill Permits
The Deputy Premier today ruled out a new assessment of permits that have been approved for the Bell Bay pulp mill.
“All the permits to start building and operating the pulp mill have been granted to Gunns Limited,” Mr Green said. “The permits are legitimate and it is Gunns’ legal right to proceed on that basis.
Mr Green said he was concerned recommendations by independent facilitator Bill Kelty had been misunderstood in regard to any further assessment of the project.
“Mr Kelty has recommended a review to clarify areas of concern; he is not suggesting a whole new permit process and I absolutely rule out that notion.
“He believes an independent person could look objectively at the facts to help allay concerns over the assessment process.
“Mr Kelty sees this as a way of trying to heal the wounds and bring the community closer by providing a workable understanding of the process.
Mr Green said the Government was now considering all of Mr Kelty’s recommendations in his interim report on the Statement of Principles. Government media release
6 April 2011 Call to reassess pulp mill
An independent assessment of the Gunns pulp mill proposal has been recommended by forest peace talks facilitator Bill Kelty, who released his interim report yesterday.
Mr Kelty has also recommended the issue of compensation for people seriously affected by the mill be considered.
Mr Kelty said in his report that the central issue raised in all meetings was that of the current pulp mill proposal and how Tasmania could handle such a divisive and emotive issue.
He said that while the statement of principles developed by industry and environment groups stated that a pulp mill was acceptable, the question was not a pulp mill but the Tamar Valley pulp mill proposed by Gunns.
"However, it must be appreciated that there is considerable concern from some parts of the community about the process used to promote the proposed Gunns mill at Bell Bay," he said.
"Whilst it is recognised that there have been changes in approach there remains a reservoir of cynicism and bitterness which needs to be addressed.
"There are many issues which impact on the community and it cannot be assumed that there will not be strong opposition from a variety of sources."
A Gunns spokesman said that the company would consider the report in due course.
He said that Gunns was not a signatory to the forests statement of principles and that all the necessary approvals for the pulp mill were in place.
Mr Kelty also said that the uncertainty surrounding the economic position of Gunns - reflected in its volatile and relatively low share price - and the uncertainty surrounding the timing and specific intent of the company's voluntary withdrawal from native forest processing, were two factors that may make reaching a workable solution difficult.
Industry groups welcomed the report and said that there was merit in continuing the process.
Environment groups welcomed Mr Kelty's proposal to appoint an independent person to assess the pulp mill process, but have ruled out supporting the mill even if the independent assessment supports the mill.
"It's clear from this report that there is not an expectation on environment groups to support the pulp mill. This is good because we do not support the pulp mill," the Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said yesterday. Examiner
5 April 2011 Kelty urges pulp mill compo
A report on Tasmania's forestry peace talks recommends compensation for Tamar Valley residents affected by Gunns' pulp mill. It is one recommendation in the first report by the forest peace talks mediator, Bill Kelty. The report has been released by the Federal Government.
Mr Kelty says there is "a higher chance" that peace between the signatories may not be achieved and one of the biggest hurdles is Gunns' pulp mill.
He recommends an independent review of the mill's assessment, further studies on its economic and social impacts and compensation for some Tamar valley business and residents.
Mr Kelty says Government funding would be needed to help the timber industry restructure as it withdraws from logging in high conservation value public forests.
Tasmania's Premier, Lara Giddings, says Mr Kelty makes several recommendations about the mill and the Government is considering them.
Ms Giddings says the report provides a clear picture of the magnitude of the work ahead and there can be no lasting agreement unless the forest industry has a realistic path for transition.
Both sides of Tasmania's forest debate have vowed to stick with the peace process, despite Mr Kelty suggesting the talks could collapse.
The Wilderness Society's Vica Bayley backs the report's recommendation for an independent review of the mill's assessment process. "Any review must be independent, robust and look into alternatives to the mill," he said.
Terry Edwards from the Forest Industries Association says all signatories to the peace deal need to be open minded. "[We should] try and pursue an outcome that will necessarily be a compromise," he said.
The report also says governments must be prepared to pass laws that protect high conservation value public forests. Mr Kelty says the agreement hinges on the withdrawal of loggers from high conservation value forest. He says Forestry Tasmania has stopped logging in 98 per cent of the agreed areas.
The Greens' Kim Booth told Parliament the State Government was undermining the process by allowing Forestry Tasmania to continue some harvesting. "[In places] such as the Esperance, West Wellington, Barn Back, Hartz Mountains and the Picton forests."
The Forestry Minister Bryan Green told Parliament the agreement allowed logging to fulfil existing contracts. "We also have to have areas maintained to keep the industry going though that process." The Minister said he would investigate the Greens' concerns. ABC
31 March 2011 Many voices in the Tas pulp mill discussion
Richard Flanagan might be right when he claims, “loathing of Gunns is deep seated”, but that’s not a reason why his view that the pulp mill should not go ahead should rise above the scrum of views on the Bell Bay pulp mill.
Indeed, if it were only Gunns who wanted a pulp mill, his cause might have had a more sympathetic ear by now.
But it isn’t. And that’s why Bill Kelty is performing his role as moderator in an historical battle between Tasmania’s natural forestry industry and environmentalists seeking to accommodate beliefs and strong argument from both sides of the forestry “war”. The pulp mill was coupled more recently to the forest agreement talks because they are a multi-party process, not a forum for one group to get everything they ever wanted.
What Mr Flanagan wants is for his view of the world to be asserted ahead of the views of a very large number of Tasmanians who fear for the future of Tasmania without some injection of private capital, and without some future for the forestry sector that has until recently sustained many livelihoods for nearly five generations.
If only it were so simple.
The genesis for the Forest Agreement talks was the initiative shown by veteran forest campaigner Sean Cadman approaching me to see if some sort of peace might not be found on my taking over the CEO’s role at Gunns. An outbreak of peace I would like to continue.
Since then, and during the Kelty talks, Gunns has:
* Committed to exit forever from natural forest logging
* Asked to have enshrined in its environmental permitting the commitment to have the pulp mill use only 100 per cent, Forest Stewardship Council certified pulp (in response to environmental leadership discussions)
* Introduced Elemental Chlorine Free Light processing for the best marine effluent outcomes available in the world
* Been granted full environmental approvals to operate a world-class pulp mill
* Shown through an independent study that $10 billion will be injected into the Tasmanian economy, a third of which will be in northern Tasmania alone
Committed to setting up a committee of environmentalists, social welfare and industry representatives to monitor the mill’s operation, and extract as much social and economic benefit from the pulp mill possible.
Gunns committed to those decisions because it believes this mill will not only enable it to restructure out of a collapsing forestry sector and position the company as a successful value-adding pulp exporter, but once again contribute to a revitalized Tasmanian economy.
Yes, Gunns needs this mill, but not as much as Tasmania. And this is the flip-side of the case Richard Flanagan presents.
It is also what Bill Kelty is gamely trying to bring together in the Forest Agreement talks. Thirty years of mutual scorn. Mr Flanagan may well attack from outside, but that’s not a luxury that those inside the talks have or want.
They are acting in good faith, and recognising that their central goals of secure high conservation value forests and jobs and businesses in remaining forestry, are ones worth having. Mr Flanagan has no skin in this game.
The Forest Agreement talks are possibly too complex for Mr Flanagan’s simple view of the world. The forestry sector doesn’t have an eloquent and engaged (or enraged) fiction writer to carry forward their case to a mainland audience, but they are no less passionate, and no less concerned about the prospect of the pulp mill being sacrificed on the altar of opponents’ distaste for Gunns.
My vision for the Bell Bay pulp mill, though, is as singular as Mr Flanagan’s. I want a pulp mill that assures its host community - on a fully objective and accountable basis - that it is safe, that it is clean and that it will meet its promise of job opportunities.
I go further and want to operate a pulp mill that doesn’t detract – in reality or perception - from the tourist and agricultural market values of the Tamar Valley.
Even further, I want Tasmania to show it is mature enough to attract resource investment and harness the economic and social benefits that come with it and promote the environmental integrity of this mill amidst it.
I know Mr Flanagan and the mill opponents think it is not conceivable that a company with Gunns’ history can achieve this. He might even think that the Federal Government (and its independent expert panel that signed-off on the hydro-dynamic models) and the State Government are not up to keeping us honest.
But then what? Is it cynicism that can be seen as justified - or indulgent or downright dangerous?
Where does that leave every forest worker who has lost a job or contract because of the downturn in the forest sector? Where does that leave the cooks, the waiters and the B&B operators who know that the time has come for Tasmania to invest in tourist infrastructure if they are to be able to continue to contribute to the Tasmanian economy? Where does that leave Tasmania’s disproportionately large ageing population needing home-based support and healthcare services?
If only it were as simple as Mr Flanagan presents.
Bell Bay pulp mill will be built in an area already zoned heavy industrial. It will operate next to a woodchip mill, an aluminium smelter, a seafood processing facility, a power plant and the Port of Launceston. This is not the Tarkine Wilderness. This is most certainly not the Franklin Dam.
For opponents to present the pulp mill as “the next Franklin” is a gross misrepresentation of the environmental values of the Tamar Valley. To represent it as such insults the passions and convictions of the thousands of people who took to the bulldozers to stop an icon of pristine wilderness from being inundated.
Superficially, I agree that in an area valued for its attractiveness to tourists, a badly operating pulp mill might pose some real and perception risks. However I believe, on any objective basis, the real risks are not there.
So let’s deal with the perception. As I see it what we must do is work co-operatively, collaboratively, to make sure that Tamar Valley’s tourist and clean agriculture values are not compromised. You don’t have to have one without the other. You can have both, but it will take openness of mind as well as information to make it happen.
Gunns is an emerging modern company. It does take its social licence seriously, and open, active engagement with how the mill operates is part of that commitment.
We will work with the people of Rowella and George Town to make sure they don’t suffer and do get the jobs and business opportunities they desperately need. We will support open engagement, and make this mill one of the most transparently operated and full-accountable mills in the world. The opportunity for its legitimacy to be scrutinized is on the table awaiting participation.
Gunns might have come late to its newfound acknowledgement to operate successfully within its social context, but at least it has. I understand that many will for some time to come be looking to see if the leopard’s spots will fade. Fair enough. My greater challenge is not so much to convince the Tasmanian public that Gunns can now be trusted, but to convince them that the risks of not trusting us are far less than the risks of losing this once-in-a-long-time opportunity to inject some hope into the Tasmanian and regional economy.
The challenge I send out to the likes of Richard Flanagan is: be objective not emotive and understand that yours is not the only point of view.
They all matter, and we have a responsibility to find a way to meet many people’s needs, not just one. It is the mark of a civilized society.
Greg L’Estrange is Managing Director of Gunns Limited. ABC
30 March 2011 Pulp mill not viable: Gunns must answer key questions
An independent report released today by Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Christine Milne, strongly questions the financial viability of Gunns' proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.
"Gunns have made some wildly optimistic claims about their project and so I commissioned this report by independent finance analyst, Naomi Edwards to analyse the financial viability of the mill.
"The report finds Gunns' projections are over optimistic and that inherent risks to the project have not been modelled."
• Gunns based export earnings on a weakened Australian dollar despite widespread forecasts predicting ongoing strength and continued parity with the greenback.
• The input fibre costs are more than modelled for a native forest-based feed stock.
• International pulp prices are volatile and there has been no modelling of a low pulp price combined with a higher Australian dollar.
• Transport economics are the lynchpin for the mill.
• Lack of competitiveness with South America on wage, fibre and production costs.
• A cost blow out from $1.4 billion in 2006 to the current predicted cost of $2.5 billion.
"Just as Naomi Edwards has proposed the costing of the mill, so too the jobs numbers deserve scrutiny. Far from the local job bonanza, Gunns now admit that the number of direct jobs will be down from 295 in 2006 to 250, yet incredibly the number of indirect jobs has risen from 1322 to 2850 over the same period. How can this be?
"Gunns has also failed to take account of the lost jobs in the tourism, fishing and agricultural businesses of the Tamar.
"Gunns needs the mill in the Tamar Valley because of the transport economics, and that is why Gunns has failed the site assessment process. The company knows the Tamar Valley is not a suitable site but is prepared to impose its will, aided and abetted by the state government, against the best interests of Tasmania.
"No joint venture partner could look at this project and take seriously an analysis which has gilded the lily on site, on economics, and on modelling which did not assume any downside to the project." Greens
30 March 2011 Pulp mill not viable: Milne
Greens Senator Christine Milne says a new report shows that Gunns' proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill is not financially viable.
Senator Milne told an anti- pulp mill meeting at Riverside last night that the report showed Gunns had made optimistic claims about the mill that carried inherent risks.
Senator Milne was one of three guest speakers who spoke to about 650 people.
The report - by actuary Naomi Edwards, who has previously queried Forestry Tasmania returns and spoken at an anti-mill rally to question the viability of the pulp mill - raised concerns over construction costs, fibre costs and foreign exchange impacts.
Senator Milne said Gunns hadn't considered the strengthening Australian dollar when discussing the mill.
"The foreign exchange impact would make this mill totally unreliable."
The report also pointed to a construction cost blowout to $2.5 billion from the original $1.4 billion, it said plantation fibre costs were higher than those modelled for a native- forest based feed stock and the mill would have a "lack of competitiveness" with South America.
A Gunns spokesman declined to comment on the report last night.
The report was launched at the Friends of the Tamar Valley community meeting at the Tailrace Centre last night.
Other guest speakers were psychologist Steve Biddulph and professor of politics Quentin Beresford.
Another anti-pulp-mill rally is scheduled for May 14 in Franklin Square, Hobart.
Senator Milne said the mill was a "disaster of a proposal" that was "totally unsuitable" for the Tamar Valley.
"All Gunns' economic assumptions assume that there is going to be no negative impact or risk to the environment or to people because of their pulp mill," she said
"But when you start taking the risk analysis into consideration you get a completely different outcome.
"It is a corrupt process that cannot be supported in a democracy and must not be supported with a single dollar of federal government funding." Examiner
25 March 2011 Holding up Gunns through secret deals, Richard Flanagan
Gunns, once the billion dollar super company of Tasmania, is today on its knees and needing its pulp mill — a project now seven years old and still without finance — to simply stay in existence. Its share price is abysmal and it reportedly owes millions to its principal supplier of trees, Forestry Tasmania.
Ironically, to get a funding partner that will help finance the mill Gunns now desperately needs the support of conservationists — the much-vaunted social licence.
Last year, with their markets collapsing and their industry in crisis, the Tasmanian forest industry sued for peace with the conservationists and began talks about getting out of native forest logging. Gunns pulp mill was never meant to be part of these discussions.
But the worst kept secret of recent months is that Gunns sought to play those negotiating on behalf of the environment movement like a cat with a mouse. Bill Kelty — recently appointed by the Federal government to facilitate these talks — has finally made the secret deal the conservationists were offered public and explicit.
The deal is staggering: in return for the ending of native forest logging environmentalists must support the pulp mill. Or put another way, no pulp mill, no ending of old growth logging. By publicly putting a gun to the head of environmental groups, Kelty is revealed as a fixer for the problems of Gunns rather than of Tasmania, going so far as meeting with potential joint venture partners for the Gunns mill.
Gunns and those around it had believed that some environmental concessions would see opposition to the mill largely disappear.
But after seven long years, that opposition is stronger, larger and angrier than ever. The threats of mass civil disobedience are real, and Tasmanian police have already made preparations for a Franklin River campaign level of mass arrests should the mill commence construction.
When a few weeks ago word of the possible deal began to leak out, it became clear that this deal could not be stitched up privately. In going public with what is a threat, Kelty would seem to have been forced by the clear anger within Tasmania generally at the revived prospect of the Gunns pulp mill.
For in Tasmania loathing of Gunns is deep seated and widely held, and there is little support for either Gunns pulp mill or old growth logging. That loathing is closely entwined with the contempt they feel for the Tasmanian Labor government, which shares similar popularity ratings with the NSW Labor government.
In its various incarnations over the last 12 years, it has always given the appearance of a government that understood its principal role as a government to bankroll, support and run protection for Gunns, no matter what the cost to the Tasmanian people. The dying former premier Jim Bacon rang anti-mill opponent Peter Cundall in the last weeks of his life to tell him that the forestry lobby had simply been too strong for him to oppose.
Bill Kelty has covered himself in ignominy by doing what Tasmanians now understand to be the only purpose of Labor apparatchiks in Tasmania: to keep propping up a company for which not even the markets now have any use.
Was Bill Kelty appointed by the Federal government to help Tasmanians out of the decades long conflict over the forests, or to perpetuate it by breathing life back into the dying monster of the pulp mill?
What made him think his brief extended to talking to prospective joint venture partners to Gunns?
What was he seeking from these companies?
Why is he proposing what would appear to be another fast track assessment of the mill?
What is the amount of subsidy and support taxpayers will be expected to dole out yet again to Gunns after the hundreds of millions they have already rorted, and is he seeking to gain a consensus of support for these? Or was he assuring the joint venture partners he would deliver the necessary social contract by forcing the issue with a devil’s choice for the conservationists?
Whatever the answers to the questions, Kelty’s is a shameful position that perpetuates so much that is so wrong in Tasmanian public life.
Like other exotic species before him, he appears to have been felled by the island’s chainsaw Camorra.
For as well as being duped by Gunns, Kelty would appear to have been dudded by the Tasmanian government. Kelty has failed to get any commitment from the Tasmanian government to do anything to halt the logging of high conservation value forests, nor any sign of them doing anything to achieve that end in the future.
As you read this, high conservation value forests in iconic areas continue being clearfelled and the annual autumn napalming has begun.
New Tasmanian premier Lara Giddings made the most concise, if Marie Antoinette-ish, statement of the government’s position last month, when she declared that before the GFC the Gunns pulp mill was the icing on the cake, whereas now it was the whole cake.
If it is, it’s one now all over Bill Kelty’s face.
Was his role to help reform the industry here, or merely to keep the old rackets running? Because the old racket, and the corruption of public life that flowed from it, have to end if Tasmania is ever to move forward.
While in Tasmania, Kelty is said to have been fond of recounting, parable like, an anecdote about Teddy Kennedy on his deathbed regretting not cutting a compromise deal on medical insurance in the 1970s.
That’s an American story, which admittedly seem in vogue with national Labor figures at the moment.
Here’s an Australian story.
In the late 1970s, the then Tasmanian Labor government, faced with growing opposition to its plan to dam the Franklin River, offered Tasmanians a referendum in which they could choose either a dam on the Franklin River or a dam on the nearby Gordon River.
The conservationist response, No Dams, shaped not only the triangle designed to house the slogan but the future of politics in Australia. It helped bring Labor to federal power in 1983 and the Accord of which Bill Kelty is rightly so proud.
Sometimes a deal is not the best option.
Sometimes no deal at all is the realistic choice.
And sometimes that leads to a better world.
Who knows what regrets Bill Kelty might have on his deathbed? ABC
24 March 2011 Giddings switch on mill deal
Green groups will not have to support the Gunns pulp mill to get a forestry peace deal signed, Premier Lara Giddings said yesterday.
Her comments were in contrast to her statements on Tuesday, when she said there had to be agreement on "the pulp mill" to get the deal done.
Yesterday, Ms Giddings said an agreement could be reached, but a pulp mill needed to be part of it.
"There can be an agreement without those organisations agreeing to the pulp mill, they don't have to, they are not being asked to suddenly change their position opposing to this piece of industry, to suddenly support it, we don't expect they will," she said.
However, Ms Giddings said any further locking up of high-conservation-value forest would probably need some compromise from the environmental groups.
"Certainly for an agreement to be reached on putting any further freeze on to high-conservation- value reserve there has to be the pulp mill as part of it," she said.
"You won't get the trees without the industry."
Facilitator Bill Kelty flew out of the country yesterday and was not available to the media.
In a statement he said he would hand his interim report to the government by the end of the week.
"One area specifically (for consideration) would be an independent review of the current pulp mill assessment," he said.
"This would attempt to clarify the main areas of concern within the current assessment of the proposal from Gunns Ltd."
Ms Giddings said if an independent assessment of the project was what the round-table talks came up with, then the government would support it.
Mr Kelty's office confirmed he was not being paid to facilitate the peace talks, and had even refused to be reimbursed for some expenses.
Greens leader Nick McKim said he had been reassured there were no ultimatums from Mr Kelty to environmental groups about the pulp mill. Examiner
23 March 2011 Pulp mill for native forest trade-off mooted
Trading almost 600,000 hectares of native forest for the proposed Gunns pulp mill is an avenue being discussed at the forestry round table, facilitator Bill Kelty confirmed yesterday.
Mr Kelty also said that he had spoken to potential joint venture partners for the mill.
The former union boss was in Launceston yesterday to discuss the talks and how they were progressing.
Mr Kelty also spoke to the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union's Tasmanian committee of management and a collection of shop stewards about the forestry statement of principles.
CFMEU national president Jane Calvert said that Mr Kelty had taken them through how the process was going and answered a number of questions.
She said that it was important to hear he believed an agreement could be reached.
Ms Calvert said that members wanted to know why forestry protests were continuing in workplaces when the two sides were at the negotiating table.
She said that Mr Kelty told them to ignore those groups who were ineffective and instead concentrate on reaching agreement with the well-funded and organised groups still at the table.
Ms Calvert said that the union also "recommitted to the statement of principles in its entirety".
She said that while there were aspects the union didn't like - such as the end of all native forest logging - the statement was the deal agreed to.
Premier Lara Giddings said that she looked forward to getting Mr Kelty's interim report - which is expected within weeks - on the progress of negotiations.
"However, as Bill Kelty has said, reaching a final agreement will be extremely difficult and we will need to consider his report closely to fully understand the challenges and barriers ahead," she said.
"Even if the statement of principles process does not proceed in its current form, there will still need to be changes to the industry to evolve and adapt to forces which are beyond our control."
Opposition Leader Will Hodgman said that closing down the native forest industry in exchange for the pulp mill was a mistake, as there was room for both. Examiner
23 March 2011 Mill opponent says Kelty 'out of line'
An opponent of Gunns' Tamar Valley pulp mill wants the mediator of Tasmania's forest peace talks to step down from his role.
In his first media conference since becoming mediator, Bill Kelty revealed he had spent three months talking to people involved in the industry, including potential joint venture partners for the mill.
One of the signatories to the talks and mill opponent, Vica Bayley from the Wilderness Society, is not concerned.
"He is obliged to talk to every and anybody that he sees fit," he said.
But long time anti-pulp mill campaigner, Sydney businessman Geoffrey Cousins, says Mr Kelty is out of line.
"Mr Kelty will now have to excuse himself from these talks," Mr Cousins said.
The Tasmanian Greens leader says the mill should be considered outside the framework of the forest peace talks.
Nick McKim says the pulp mill has no place in the talks.
"The current proposal for a pulp mill for the Tamar Valley wasn't included in the original statement of principles and we've consistently argued that that particular proposal should be kept outside the process," he said.
He says it is wrong to suggest Mr Kelty believes all signatories to the peace talks will need to support the pulp mill.
Mr Kelty expects to hand his interim report to the State Government this week. Yahoo Finance
23 March 2011 Kelty in talks with potential mill partner
Mr Kelty says he will be able to meet the deadline for his report. Tasmania's forestry peace deal broker, Bill Kelty, has revealed he has had discussions with a potential joint venture partner for Gunns' proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.
Mr Kelty is facilitating negotiations between the forestry industry and green groups to end most logging in public native forests.
At his first media conference in the role, Mr Kelty confirmed he had met a possible joint venture partner for the $2.3 billion pulp mill, as part of his role. "This is so significant that if people have a view, and are a substantive player, then I think it wise to talk to them," he said.
Mr Kelty refused to be drawn on the progress of the talks. He would not reveal the detail but he hinted there was goodwill on all sides to reach an agreement. "I think it's very easy to draw the conclusion that there will be no agreement, I think that's the easiest conclusion," he said. "But because it's the easiest doesn't mean it's the right conclusion and what the signatories have said is 'let's continue the process'."
He says it is up to the State Government to decide whether to make his report public.
The Premier Lara Giddings says the parties to the forestry talks will have to reach agreement on Gunns' Tamar Valley pulp mill for the process to work. Ms Giddings has told ABC Local Radio it is possible the talks will fail. "Well, at this stage, we've still got parties together at the table and that's really important that those discussion continue, but I think we have to be prepared for the fact that agreement may not be reached," she said. "There are some very tough issues on the table that Bill spoke about today as well. "This is an agreement in its entirety."
Tasmania's farming lobby welcomed an an Upper House inquiry into the forest peace talks.
The Legislative Council is due to start taking evidence next month on the move to end most native forest logging.
The inquiry has been criticised by some of the signatories, who expect to consult the community once a final deal is in draft form.
The Farmers and Graziers Association's Jan Davis says farmers who own tracts of native forest have been excluded from the talks, even though they will be affected by any changes.
"Our concern is that there are obvious flow-ons from any decision about public native forests to the private sector and at some stage we have to be engaged in those discussions to make sure that the farmers who have private forests on their land as part of their farming enterprises are not again disadvantaged," she said. ABC
23 March 2011 Make mill deal or lose, Bill Kelty tells greens
Forestry peace broker Bill Kelty has warned that green groups must strike a deal on the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill - or miss out on the permanent protection of 565,000 hectares of native forests.
The former union leader, appointed to "facilitate" a negotiated peace between loggers and green groups, also yesterday warned that Gunns should submit to a new, independent mill assessment.
Stepping up pressure for a compromise, Mr Kelty said there had to be agreement on a plantation-fed mill to allow Gunns to exit native-forest logging and free up enough wood to allow an industry transition out of old forests.
"That is almost the biggest game in town in terms of getting an industry settlement together with an environmental settlement," he said.
"A proposal by Gunns to have a pulp mill at Bell Bay in the Tamar Valley is the only essential proposition that is on the table."
However, he revealed all sides to the historic talks - unions, industry and green groups - now backed the appointment of an independent person to assess whether the mill met environmental guidelines.
Gunns has been strongly resisting the move, arguing it has already secured full state and federal approvals, but managing director Greg L'Estrange yesterday began a round of further talks with Mr Kelty.
Mr Kelty said it was "easy to conclude that there will be no agreement" due to ongoing differences on the $2.3 billion pulp mill.
However, his interim report, to be passed to state and federal governments by week's end, would recommend that the talks to find a solution to 30 years of conflict continue.
The two substantive issues to be decided were a logging moratorium with agreed security of wood supply - and the pulp mill.
The moratorium was agreed earlier this month, temporarily protecting 565,000ha of high conservation value forests from logging, while allowing up to 12,000ha to be harvested.
Only the mill remained unresolved, he said. However, peak group, Environment Tasmania, yesterday said that while green groups had an "open mind" about a new independent assessment, they remained opposed to the mill.
ET director Phill Pullinger said conservationists also wanted to see state and federal governments respond to Mr Kelty's report by acting to fully implement the agreed moratorium.
ET and other green groups involved it the talks - The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation- have welcomed improvements to the mill to reduce chlorine emissions and guarantee a 100% plantation feed-stock.
However, they have been holding out against endorsing the project because of ongoing hostility to it in the Tamar Valley, north of Launceston, and what Mr Kelty agreed was "considerable cynicism" about its state fast-track approval.
However, it is still possible the groups could agree to a form of words on the mill that would satisfy Gunns' needs to reassure joint venture partners and financiers that it has environmental support.
Mr Kelty expressed "uncertainty" about Gunns' "economic position" and confirmed he had held talks with potential joint venture partners for the project. Australian
22 March 2011 Gunns' mill critical to talks
An independent assessment of the Gunns pulp mill could overcome lingering bitterness about its approval, forest peace talk facilitator Bill Kelty has suggested.
In his first public statement about his role Mr Kelty said it would be easy to conclude that no agreement was possible from the peace talks.
He said that any agreement would require the environmental signatories to agree to the Bell Bay pulp mill.
"There are no others [mills] planned that I know of," he said.
Mr Kelty said the trade-off would be the saving of 572,000ha of high conservation value forest.
He said he had spoken to Gunns' potential joint venture partners but not to potential financiers.
"It was clearly understood by the signatories that they would support 'a pulp mill' but there is clearly now only one proposition available at the moment," he said.
Mr Kelty said the parties had to discuss the pulp mill to be able to meet the terms of their agreement or some alternative to that agreement. Mercury
21 March 2011 Call for more detail on mill benefits
An economist from the University of Tasmania wants timber company Gunns to provide more economic information about its pulp mill project.
Last week, Gunns published a report showing its Tamar Valley Pulp Mill would contribute $10 billion to Tasmania's economy over the next 20 years and provide 3,100 indirect jobs.
Economist Graeme Wells says there are a lot of factors the report did not take into account, such as variations in exchange rates and potential problems in the Japanese paper market.
"I guess we are being told that our best expectation is such-and-such a value but what we'd also like to know is how much would that change, for instance, if the exchange rate appreciates a little bit more; how much it would change if the pulp price doesn't turn out as perhaps Gunns expect," he said.
An Integrated Impact Statement produced by Gunns in 2007 shows the mill would only provide 1,600 indirect jobs.
Mr Wells says he wants to know why the jobs figure has changed.
"In this latest exercise the number of indirect jobs that's created by the mill is twice as large as when they presented it to the RPDC a few years ago and the reasons for that are not explained at all in this report."
"So that's a bit of a puzzle," he said. ABC
21 March 2011 Mill won't be build: rally told
The Gunns' pulp mill will not be built, claim protesters in their latest rally against the $2.3 billion project.
More than 1000 anti-mill protesters heard the continuing theme from prominent speakers before marching across the Batman Bridge yesterday.
Tasmanian-born author Richard Flanagan said yesterday's turnout indicated public opposition to the mill was stronger than ever. "The lesson of history is that, ultimately, you have to have the consent of the people, and Gunns do not have that consent," Flanagan said.
Former television presenter Peter Cundall was adamant that similar protests would continue until the mill was stopped. "We are going to beat this mill, make no mistake about it," Mr Cundall told the crowd.
Meanwhile, forest industry representatives say they respect the right of people to protest. Timber Communities Australia state manager Barry Chipman said: "Those people have their right to have their say, but from Timber Communities Australia point of view, there are many thousands of people who want to see the pulp mill built, and are looking forward to that taking place". Examiner
20 March 2011 The Power greater than Money [Richard Flanagan, Batman Reserve anti pulp mill rally].
Seven long years ago Paul Lennon and John Gay decided they would build their pulp mill. The people did not agree. They tried to silence us, to intimidate us, to threaten us, to break us and destroy us. Lately they’ve even tried to flatter us and to divide us.
And after seven long years I am here today to say Gunns has still not won. And I am here today to say if it takes another seven years Gunns will never win.
For seven long years we have had arrayed against us on all sides the immense power of great parties, of governments, of unions, of paid up cronies in media and front groups.
And all that combined power was in craven servitude to the wealth of one company. That wealth was stolen from our forests and our taxes, and it was made from the selling of our soul.
To get their mill in the face of the people’s opposition, they perverted Parliament, they cowed the public service, they sued some, assassinated the characters of others, they spat on our laws and even had their lawyers write new ones that placed their mill beyond the law, they stacked every sphere of public life, every board and department, with their despicable bullying cronies.
Yet the paradox is that this battle destroyed not us, but them. It destroyed Paul Lennon. It destroyed Robin Gray. It destroyed John Gay. It will destroy Greg L’Estrange. But we are still here. And, after seven long years, we are stronger than ever. Gunns did not win then, they will not win now, and they will never win.
To agree to this mill is to say to everyone in Tasmania—every man, woman and child—that in the end might is right, greed is good, that the only law is the dollar, and that the corruption of our public life is not just acceptable but the only way to get anything done in Tasmania.
We find ourselves then in a great struggle, the path through which is far from clear, the horizon of defeat constantly in view. The power of Gunns remains considerable, and its motive for mischief, for deceit, for unscrupulous action is enhanced and not diminished by the perilous state they find themselves in.
But we have discovered within ourselves a power greater than their money. It is the power of the powerless. And it is a simple thing of terrible beauty. It is the power to say, No; I do not agree.
It is the power manifested by a welder in a Gdansk shipyard in 1980. It is the power shown by an imprisoned playwright in Prague in 1989. It is the power of a fruit seller in Tunisia three months ago, of the crowds who kept returning to a Cairo square two months ago, and it is the power this very day of those patriots in Benghazi standing up to a murdeous dictator.
It is the power against which nothing can ultimately prevail, the moment a people withdraw their consent. It is the power against which armies, states, and tyrannies ultimately crumble. It is the power that again and again and again changes history.
And it is this power of the powerless, of the many who say, No, I do not agree, that will ensure that John Gay’s dream and Greg L’Estrange’s million dollar bonus all end up as ash.
It is the power that has already reduced Gunns, once so powerful, to their knees. Their share price is terrible, they cannot even pay their millions of dollars of debt to Forestry Tasmania. The clock is ticking against them. The one chance Gunns have is getting another company to sign up as a joint venture partner and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in this folly of a mill.
This is our message today to any prospective financier. If it takes Tasmanians going to jail to stop this mill, then, if we must, we will go to jail. We will go to jail in our tens, we will go to jail in our hundreds, and we will go to jail in our thousands, and we will keep going to jail until this mill is stopped.
So in the weeks and months to come, when you feel despair arise again—as inevitably it will— when you see their money and deceit once more being trumpeted in the media, do not fear. Remember what you share with so many others, that act of not agreeing with what you know to be wrong.
And know that is our power, that is our strength, that is the rock they cannot and will not break and because of it, because we do not agree, this mill will never ever be built.
This is a battle for the soul of our island and we will endure. We have stayed the course for seven years, and if it takes another seven long years we will prevail because it is our island and not theirs, because it is our air and our water and our future and we will back our island home with the strength of our love and the example of our lives.
20 March 2011 Lucy Landon-Lane, Pulp The Mill, Anti-pulp mill Protest at Batman Bridge
Over 1600 protesters gathered at the Batman Bridge Reserve today to voice their continued opposition to the Tamar Valley pulp mill.
The Peaceful Community Protest, organised by Pulp the Mill, included speakers from all the anti-pulp mill groups as well as Peter Cundall, Richard Flanagan and Kim Booth, in a show of unity and strength.
Lucy Landon-Lane, spokeswoman from Pulp the Mill said, “Today was a fantastic show of community strength and unity in the fight against the pulp mill. As a symbolic act of crossing these troubled waters to success, all protesters walked along the Batman Bridge with their banners. There were so many people that when we spanned the bridge, we couldn’t fit everyone on and had to start coming back the other side.”
“Peter Cundall and Richard Flanagan both received a standing ovation from an enthusiastic and vocal crowd, sending a loud message to Gunns, potential joint venture partners and the Government that the community is gathering momentum and solidarity for the final phase of the campaign and will not stop until this pulp mill is dead.” she said.
“We will never give up! Never. never give up!” said Peter Cundall to an adoring crowd.
20 March 2011 Kim Booth MP PULP MILL MESSAGE LOUD & STRONG! Batman Bridge Reserve, anti pulp mill rally
The Tasmanian Greens today pledged to continue to fight against the controversial Gunns’ pulp mill proposal in the Tamar Valley, saying that they stand strong with the community.
Greens Forestry spokesperson Member for Bass Kim Booth MP, who addressed today’s rally in Launceston, said concerned citizens now needed to pressure both Labor and Liberal representatives to support the Greens’ move to repeal the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007.
Mr Booth also congratulated everyone who organised and participated in today’s rally, saying that people taking to the streets should never be underestimated.
“On behalf of all five Greens MPs I urge the community to not give up, to continue to take a strong stand against this toxic mill, and to lobby their Labor and Liberal representatives to vote to repeal the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007,” Mr Booth said.
“It is a clear matter of public record and a statement of fact that there are critical unassessed areas related to Gunns’ pulp mill proposal, including the site selection, air pollution, noise pollution and impact on our coastal waters. Each one of these areas is serious enough to stop this mill in its own right.”
“It is utterly irresponsible and negligent to turn a blind eye in an attempt to facilitate this mill to proceed.”
“There are 10 non-Greens’ Members of the House of Assembly who were not in the Parliament at the time that the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007 was rammed through, and they need to hear from the public that blind acceptance of their respective party line is not good enough.”
“These new Labor and Liberal MPs must not just follow blindly and compound the mistake made by their parties before they were elected, instead they need to inform themselves of the critical unassessed areas, the appalling betrayal of the public with the undemocratic ramming though of the Act, and the negative impact on other local and small businesses.”
“When the Greens bring on for debate our Bill to repeal the pulp mill, these new MPs will not be able to resort to the excuse that this all happened before their time, that they are not across these matters and therefore they can only stick to their party line.”
“These concerns cannot be relegated as historic, they are real and they are now. Every MP in the House will have to take responsibility if they vote to allow this travesty to continue,” Mr Booth said.
20 March 2011 Anne Layton-Bennett, Friends of the Tamar Valley, Batman Bridge Reserve anti mill rally
I didn’t know Lucy before this pulp mill campaign, but now I count her as a friend. Someone who will – I hope – remain a friend long after this fight is over, and we can all resume our normal everyday lives without the dark cloud of a stinking pulp mill hanging over our every waking moment.
Lucy indicated the theme for today’s rally was ‘Unite For The Betterment of Tasmania’, an idea that fits perfectly with the philosophy of Friends of the Tamar Valley, a group that – while currently committed and focussed absolutely on ensuring a pulp mill is never, ever built in the Tamar Valley, also sees a role for itself into the future. One that seeks to ensure the Tamar Valley is never again threatened by other massive, inappropriate and corruptly approved developments that risk jeopardising the environmental, economic and social health of the region. Or jeopardise its natural beauty.
Like most people here I never expected this fight would go on so long, steal so much of my life, or result in me standing here today speaking to such a wonderful crowd of people who are all dedicated to stopping this appalling mill.
This fight has ejected me well and truly out of my comfort zone. Maybe the same is true for you.
As you are all fully aware this battle has been long and hard. The years of uncertainty have taken a huge emotional toll, and nobody will emerge from it unscathed. Tasmania is such a close-knit community, and we all have friends, colleagues and family members that have been stressed beyond what is healthy during the last seven years of uncertainty.
Couples have delayed having children, business owners have delayed plans to expand their businesses, while others have had to put their retirement plans on hold indefinitely because they’ve been unable to sell their properties.
Many people – including those who work in the forestry industry - have been forced to simply mark time, trapped in situations over which they have no control, yet are unable to leave. Trapped in homes and businesses they cannot sell, and whose values have plummeted - because why would anyone risk buying into a region and a way of life that may soon disappear under clouds of noxious fumes. Toxic emissions that will spew forth on a daily basis from the chimney stack of the ‘world’s fourth largest pulp mill’, threatening our collective health and wellbeing.
That said this fight has not been all bad. It has allowed me to meet some amazing, wonderful and inspiring people, whose friendships I will always value.
So this pulp mill has achieved something positive. It’s brought us all together. And now that we’ve met each other, and our community has been well and truly forged in the fires of this fight, let’s ensure we remain close, connected and ready to protect our lovely valley.
Let’s take a moment to stop and think about what we have here, and what we want to have here in the future, so that we ensure our magnificent, stunningly beautiful island state is never again threatened by corporate selfish greed, and self-serving political recklessness.
Stop the pulp mill. We can, and we will. Tasmanian Times
20 March 2011 'Gloves are off', MP tells pulp mill protest
The campaign against Gunns' $2.5 billion pulp mill is gaining momentum with up to 1,000 opponents protesting near the mill's proposed site in northern Tasmania.
Ten speakers, including author Richard Flanagan and gardening personality Peter Cundall, addressed the crowd on the banks of the Tamar River downstream from the planned mill site. It is the first major protest since the Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, ticked off the $2.5 billion project's final permits.
Tasmanian Greens MP Kim Booth received a standing ovation as he told the crowd he will march with them and be arrested if necessary. Mr Booth told the crowd "the gloves are off". "The Greens and the people of Tasmania will never ever accept that mill, we'll never ever accept that being imposed on the Tamar Valley, we will stand up, we will march against it, there will be no mill," he said.
Anti-pulp mill activists have promised a campaign bigger than that against the Franklin Dam in the 1980s. Lucy Landon-Lane from Pulp the Mill says workshops will be held to educate protesters about the ramifications of trespassing onto private land.
The Premier, Lara Giddings, says most Tasmanians want the proposed Bell Bay pulp mill built. "I understand there are are others in the community who no matter whether it's the best pulp mill in the world fundamentally just don't want it," she said. "There are many more I believe in the wider Tasmanian community who do want to see this state downstream process their woodchips." ABC
19 March 2011 Economic Effects of the Pulp Mill – A tale of two assessments
[Graeme Wells, School of Economics and Finance, University of Tasmania.]
In last week or so, there have been two published assessments of the economic impact of Gunns pulp mill on the Tasmanian economy. One is based on a silly mistake. The other raises more questions than it answers.
The first can be disposed of fairly quickly. It appeared in an article by Dr Bruce Felmingham in the Sunday Tasmanian, 13 March 2011.
According to the article, impact studies show that ‘$6 billion income will be generated in the form of gross state product annually …. [which] … represents 20 per cent of the current value of gross state product’.
Were this claim to be true, Ms Giddings could solve her budgetary problems immediately.
She should build the mill with government money. A $2.5 billion investment would yield an annual return to gross state product of $6 billion, with a nice little share flowing back to the budget via taxes. Budgetary problem solved!
The error in the Sunday Tasmanian flows from a misunderstanding of what the $6 billion figure actually represents. It is not an annual flow. It is the sum of the discounted additions to gross state product over the modelling horizon (in the Gunns report to the RPDC, this was 2007 – 2030).
No doubt the Sunday Tasmanian will publish a correction in due course.
Now turn to the Insight Economics report released on Friday 18 March. This is more substantial. It is an updated version of the Gunns report to the RPDC, conducted using the same Monash University model as before, but with the modelling period advanced from 2007-2030 to 2011-2030.
As such, it is subject to the same strengths and limitations as the earlier report to the RPDC – its strength is that it’s based on a model structure that is reasonably well understood by practitioners.
Its limitations are that the underlying assumptions are unclear, it doesn’t allow for risks, it doesn’t allow for adverse environmental effects, and so on. Since I’ve made those arguments at length before, I won’t rehearse them here.
There are similarities in the modelling assumptions:
- As far as can be ascertained the technical specifications of the mill are the same – in both cases the mill has a capacity of 1.1 million tonnes of air dried pulp. In the earlier report, it was assumed that the mill would be operated to produce between 820,000 and 960,000 tonnes of pulp per annum. The assumed production rate in the Insight Economics report is not known.
- As before, it is assumed that the debt finance for the company is sourced from the global capital market. So debt interest (and much of the dividend flow) will flow offshore.
- The cumulative monetary impacts are discounted at a rate of 5%
There are a few differences:
- Earlier, the wood supply was a mix from Forestry Tasmania and other Tasmanian sources. Now it is envisaged that it will be plantation based and that 10% of the wood supply will come from the mainland. But in both cases, the modelling assumption is that the mill will not, of itself, change the ‘base case’ Tasmanian wood production scenario.
- The exchange rate has appreciated significantly since the last report – in 2007 the Australian dollar was trading at around 85 US cents; now it is near parity. The long-term exchange rate assumption used in the modelling is, in either case, not known.
- The mill now requires fewer workers to operate – before it was 292; now it is 250.
Although the exchange rate has appreciated and it is now proposed to import wood from interstate, the Insight Economics report paints a much rosier picture than before:
- it is calculated over a time horizon that is four years shorter, but the cumulative effect on gross state product is 30% larger (9.9 billion dollars compared to 7.57 billion dollars).
- cumulative investment is higher – but only by about the same amount as the increase in the assumed construction cost of the mill (1.45 billion dollars versus 2.3 billion dollars ).
- the impact on consumption is about the same.
- the Tasmanian balance of trade has increased by about 1.5 billion dollars.
- the indirect employment impact is more than double. Now the mill creates 3100 jobs (250 direct and 2850 indirect), compared to the earlier estimate of 1617 (295 direct and 1322 indirect).
One explanation that could account for the differences is that the mill is now assumed to operate at full capacity, giving a 15% increase in output of pulp. On the other hand, 10% of the wood supply is now going to be imported, cutting the monetary and employment impacts on the Tasmanian economy.
Alternatively, there might be a brighter outlook for world pulp prices. Given the appreciation of the Australian dollar, it would have to be a lot brighter to generate this sort of improvement in gross state product.
But in any case while higher pulp prices might lead to higher profits (and hence higher gross state product), most of the dividends will flow interstate or overseas. Higher profits would not translate into higher employment effects, purchases of raw materials from Tasmanian suppliers, or induce greater activity in the Tasmanian economy.
So the results of this report, which finds that the mill will produce more than twice as many indirect jobs as earlier estimated, are a puzzle.
This isn’t the first time that successive pulp mill modelling reports have produced wildly different results – see my earlier post: ‘Da Vinci, Picasso and Minister Tony Burke'.
That won’t stop some parliamentarians and journalists reporting the latest set of results as holy writ. But to convince the rest of us it would help if, just this once, the proponents and their consultants were more forthcoming on their modelling assumptions. Tasmanian Times
March 19 2011 Pulp mill benefits dismissed
Opponents of Gunns' Tasmanian pulp mill have dismissed a report detailing the project's economic benefits.
An Insight Economics report commissioned by Gunns says the Tamar Valley pulp mill will cost $2.3 billion and contribute $10 billion to Tasmania's economy over the next 20 years.
Financial analyst Matthew Torenius says it is likely Gunns will use the report to help it win a social licence for the mill. "It really is, I suppose, to try and get more community support," he said.
Lucy Landon-Lane from the group Pulp the Mill says the report ignores the pulp mill's social and environmental impacts. "This doesn't justify the pulp mill in any way," she said.
Gunns' share price rose 12 per cent yesterday, closing at 53 cents, but Mr Torenius says it is unlikely the jump was related to the report. ABC
19 March 2011 Mill could bring in billions: report
The proposed $2.3 billion Gunns Bell Bay pulp mill would add $9.9 billion to Tasmania's gross state product over the next two decades, according to an economic assessment. The Insight Economics pulp mill assessment was conducted in conjunction with the Monash University's Centre of Policy Studies and released by the company yesterday.
It presents the proposed pulp mill project as a major boost to the Tasmanian economy. It comes at an opportune time for Gunns on the eve of an anti-pulp mill rally in what environmentalists have promised will be a new, long campaign.
Pulp the Mill, organiser of Sunday's protest rally at the Batman Bridge reserve, says it is expecting a huge turnout to the rally. Environmental groups promised to bring on an anti-pulp campaign bigger than the Franklin Dam blockade after Gunns was granted the last federal environmental permits it needs to start construction of the mill last week.
The economic assessment of the project found that:
- Total value of the project to the gross state product of $9.9 billion by 2030 would be a return of four times the original investment.
- Total value to Northern Tasmania would be $3.7 billion and $2.1 billion to the North- West region.
- It would generate more than 11 per cent higher annual employment each year to Northern Tasmania than if it hadn't gone ahead.
- The mill would generate $597 million in taxation revenue for the state government and $397 million for the federal government.
Gunns managing director Greg L'Estrange said that the report indicated that the pulp mill would be the single biggest shot in the arm for the Tasmanian economy for a long time. He said that Gunns' task was to find a way to secure the economic benefits of the mill and work hard to mitigate what some people saw as its risks. Examiner
March 18 2011 Booth clarifies 'no confidence' stance
Greens MP Kim Booth has promised not to act against the Labor-Green Government over commercial agreements between Gunns and state-owned businesses. Earlier this month Mr Booth threatened to move a no confidence motion against the State Government if it provided any more support for Gunns' pulp mill proposal, in the form of financial guarantees or infrastructure spending.
The Forestry Minister Bryan Green told parliament this week state-owned utilities would help provide power, water and a wharf for the $2.5 billion Tamar Valley pulp mill.
Mr Booth says he would not consider commercial arrangements between companies like Aurora and Gunns to be untoward/
"If it was paid for at full commercial rates it would simply not be a public subsidy," he said. "Aurora, Transend and some roadworks inevitably end up getting used by a business and if it is simply in the form of a proper full cost recovery activity of one of those agencies, then it's very hard to cherry pick that particular dollar amount out and say its a subsidy to the mill.
Mr Booth has reiterated his promise to scrutinise all Government spending to ensure Gunns does not receive direct funds for its pulp mill "disguised" as spending on other projects. ABC
18 March 2011 Water, power support for pulp mill
State government owned businesses may provide infrastructure support for the proposed Gunns pulp mill, Resources Minister Bryan Green confirmed yesterday. He said the support would be on a commercial basis, and would be in the form of water, road and power connections. "In the same way as we will provide infrastructure to any (business) opportunity at an industrial site in the state," he said.
Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth has previously promised to bring down the government if it offered any support to the pulp mill. However, yesterday he said Mr Green's comments were standard government practice and did not constitute a "sweetheart" deal. "Were a minister, however, to direct any (government business enterprise) or government agency to provide special sweetheart deals for Gunns or dress up the pipeline as a public project for example, and therefore use the acquisition powers to seize private land, then that would not be acceptable to the Greens," he said.
Mr Booth said the Greens would be "watching closely" to hold Mr Green to his statement that the contract negotiations would be on a full commercial basis only. "(Also) our recognition that standard commercial processes may commence should not be interpreted as any form of acceptance by the Greens that the actual mill should or will get built," he said.
A spokeswoman for Ben Lomond Water, one of the GBEs that Gunns would need to deal with, said the water body had had no discussions with Gunns in relation to the issue. Examiner
16 March 2011 Gunns site choice fell 'well short'
Consultants warned Gunns the site selection process for the Long Reach pulp mill fell "well short" of the requirements in 2006, a document obtained by the Greens has revealed.
The April 2006 document was sent from the consultant to Gunns and raised problems with the site selection assessment.
However, Gunns said yesterday the pulp mill had gone through approvals at state and federal levels, including consideration of the site.
The letter said there was very little documented evidence to meet the Resource, Planning and Development Commission guidelines.
"The assessment process undertaken by Gunns falls well short of the guideline requirements and assessment which would typically be undertaken for such a project," it said.
"By tampering or attempting to enhance that process you run a serious risk of jeopardising the validity of the site selection and consequently threatening the project approvals."
The consultant's name was blacked out in the document, along with identifying references to their company.
Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth said it was more evidence Gunns had manipulated the assessment process, and then pulled out when it became clear it was going to fail the RPDC guidelines.
Mr Booth has moved a motion - to be debated today - calling for the Pulp Mill Assessment Act to be repealed because a number of risk areas had not been properly assessed.
The consultant's letter said they had been instructed not to use certain methodologies in assessing the best site - between Longreach and Hampshire near Burnie.
The letter also said information was collected from the Department of Primary Industries, Water and the Environment, but was not used in the assessment.
"Whilst the outcomes may not be what you want (the consultants are) protecting Gunns' interests by presenting the most defendable outcome from the data available," it said.
A spokesman for Gunns said the mill had been approved through federal and state permits.
"The site selection process included a detailed assessment of social, environmental and economic factors," he said. Examiner
16 March 2011 Japanese disaster could make Gunns a target
Timber giant Gunns concedes it may become a foreign takeover target amid fears its revenue will be hard hit by the closure of Japanese paper mills.
Gunns yesterday told the stock exchange the closure of three Nippon Paper mills in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami would affect the shipment of about 100,000 green tonnes of woodchips. The company said this was about 7 per cent of its annual shipment volume to Japan and about 4 per cent of total annual volume.
However, it conceded it was "continuing to assess" the impact of the disaster on demand from its Japanese customers, which made up a large share of its revenue.
The market continued to reflect concerns, with the Gunns share price falling a further 5 per cent yesterday.
The shares have tumbled from 63c on Thursday, after federal approval for its Tamar Valley pulp mill, to just 46c yesterday.
Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings warned the entire timber industry could expect a hit from the tragic events in Japan as pulp and paper mills close in the wake of the destruction and power shortages.
Gunns managing director Greg L'Estrange conceded the company, which was relying on the success and timing of asset sales to meet refinancing requirements, could be a foreign takeover target. But he warned this would lead to the $2.3 billion mill being built without involvement of Australian financial institutions and with its loss to foreign ownership.
"If there was a takeover of Gunns, that party would probably have independent finance to complete the (mill) facility in their own right without looking to any local institutions," Mr L'Estrange told ABC Radio.
"From an Australian point of view, that would be a sad outcome. We should be looking to retain as many of our assets domestically as possible and ensure the right regulatory and contribution to taxes are . . . from an Australian-based company."
Mr L'Estrange was speaking on a radio forum on the future of the negotiations in Tasmania aimed at finding a lasting agreement to end the 30-year conflict over native forest logging.
A forest deal is not possible without Gunns agreeing to surrender its contractual rights to 220,000 cubic metres of native forest sawlogs a year.
A foreign takeover or the failure of the company would throw the negotiations into chaos, and was likely to make a deal very difficult to achieve.
Gunns is pushing for a deal to include blessing for the pulp mill to reassure a joint venture partner and banker that a history of disputation over the project is behind it.
Last night, the company conceded it still had more work to do to achieve what is being termed a "social licence" for the mill.
It released a warts-and-all consultants' report on attitudes to Gunns and the mill, including findings that "Gunns suffers almost chronic distrust" in the community and is seen by some as a "bully". Mr L'Estrange announced he would accept the report's recommendation to conduct a new local consultation process. Australian
15 March 2011 Gunns assessing Japan disaster impact
Woodchipper Gunns Ltd says it is not a significant supplier to paper mills most affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Gunns said on Tuesday that current sales commitments to the Japanese market were mostly to mills outside of the directly-affected region.
It appeared that the most significant direct impacts of the disaster were at Nippon Paper Industry mills at Akita, Ishinomaki and Iwanuma.
'Gunns has not been a significant supplier to these mills, and based on historical sales levels would expect an annual shipment volume of approximately 100,000 gmt (green metric tonnes) to the directly-affected region,' Gunns said in a statement.
Gunns said other producers had lost stocks of woodchip, pulp and paper and were undertaking plant assessments before re-starting production.
Gunns said it was continuing to assess the effects of the Japanese earthquake on the business outlook.
Shares in Gunns were 1.5 cents higher at 50.5 cents at 1159 AEDT on Tuesday. Sky Business News
15 March 2011 Groups gearing up for pulp mill protest
Buses from Launceston and Hobart will carry opponents of Gunns' proposed pulp mill to Bell Bay for a protest on Sunday.
Pulp the Mill protest organiser Lucy Landon- Lane said yesterday that there had been a good response so far to the call for participants.
She said Sunday's protest would be the first of a long campaign over the next few months with a big rally planned soon.
It comes after federal Environment Minister Tony Burke last week granted Gunns permits for the last three modules of its environmental impact plan - effectively clearing the way for a start on the $2.3 billion mill.
Anti-pulp mill speakers at next weekend's protest will include Tamar Valley resident and gardening personality Peter Cundall, Hobart author Richard Flanagan and Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth.
It is planned to take place on the proposed pulp mill site.
Participants have been told that last time protesters went on to Gunns land, the company had asked police not to arrest them.
But it will be up to individuals to decide whether to comply with any orders by police to leave the site.
Gunns managing director Greg L'Estrange said last Friday that the company acknowledged the right to peaceful protest but he hoped that people would show a level of maturity and safety.
Gunns share prices fell further yesterday after Friday's announcement on the permits. Yesterday prices started at 55¢ a share and closed at 49¢. Examiner
15 March 2011 Critical areas unassessed by either state or federal pulp mill processes
The Tasmanian Greens today reiterated to the Parliament how remiss the process of providing permits to Gunns has been, especially the assessment of the proposed pulp mill noise levels, as well as issues like bio-accumulation of organochlorins in the State’s coastal waters and air quality.
Greens Forests spokesperson Kim Booth MP said that it was a disgrace that the Gunns’ mill project had been granted permits without any independent assessments being carried out, especially given recent concerns that the Gunns’ pulp mill will exceed the noise pollution levels specified under current permit conditions.
Mr Booth also said the Greens intend to pursue the unassessed areas of the pulp mill in their Private Members Time tomorrow.
“The fact that the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007, which was so basely rammed through the Parliament, sets up a system that enables permits to be granted but without any independent assessment undertaken before the permit is issued, is an outrageous attempt to allow this mill to get underway by turning a blind eye to serious unassessed areas,” Mr Booth said.
“Site selection for this pulp mill, particularly in context of impacts upon local amenity and other businesses in the Tamar Valley, has been ignored and has not been properly assessed.”
Mr Booth said that the permits need to be suspended pending a full and independent assessment of the following areas which have not been assessed by either the State or Commonwealth:
- The bio-accumulation of persistent organic pollutants in the state’s coastal waters and marine areas, and potential contamination of fish stocks which has been raised as a concern by those in the Tasmanian fishing industry;
- The distribution and long term effects of fine particle pollution on residents in the Tamar Valley;
- Noise and odour impacts;
- The long term effects on catchment hydrology, water yields and availability;
- The effect on the social and economic viability of rural and regional communities;
- The infrastructure damage to roads and bridges by log and chemical truck traffic;
- Disaster management;
- Site selection, particularly in context of impacts upon local amenity and other businesses in the Tamar Valley; and
- The social and economic costs of the project to the state and in particular the Tamar Valley. Greens
14 March 2011 Gunns reels as Japan paper mills shut
Tasmanian forestry company Gunns shares slumped as much as 14 per cent this morning amid concern about the impact of closure of a number of paper mills in Japan, managed by one of the company's biggest customers, Nippon Paper.
Gunns shares were recently trading down 6 cents, or 10.7 per cent, at 50 cents. (They closed at 49 cents).
A Nippon Paper statement on Saturday confirmed shutdowns at the Ishinomaki Mill, Iwanuma Mill, Nakoso Mill, Fuji Mill and Nippon Daishowa Paperboard's Akita Mill. At Ishinomaki there was unconfirmed information that an employee was injured, but elsewhere the damage appeared to be limited to the plants, equipment and stock.
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The Kushiro and Hokkaido mills were undamaged.
The statement noted damage in Sendai Port and Tokyo-Ariake Port but said Nippon Paper's other mills were undamaged and continued to operate.
Gunns derives up to half of its revenues from exporting woodchip to Japan.
A spokesman for the company said it was too early to determine any impact on its customers.
Gunns had an employee in Japan who was safe and was meeting with Japanese customers today, he said. Business Day
13 March 2011 Rockefeller fires warning
An heir to the Rockefeller fortune has warned of a renewed international campaign should Gunns renege on its commitment to end native forest harvesting.
Steven Rockefeller's warning comes as ABC Radio reported a rift between Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown and Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim over the six-month moratorium on the logging of high conservation value forests.
But Mr McKim said in Hobart yesterday that there was no split.
"We both think the statement of principles that had a three-month process to implement the moratorium has not been, and will not be, met," he said.
"We remain optimistic that the process now under way will lead to the protection of our high conservation value forests.
"It's disappointing that the original moratorium won't be met, but we call on all parties to implement the full moratorium as soon as possible."
Senator Brown was more blunt, saying yesterday that the deal was a breach of public trust in the forest principles process.
"Mr Kelty says, `Let me place on record our appreciation of Bob Gordon and Forestry Tasmania for your support in this difficult process', (but) no mention of environmentalists," Senator Brown said.
"Mr Gordon says Mr Kelty believes an agreement may be possible, if a proposed pulp mill at Bell Bay proceeds, and to add insult to injury adds that, by necessity, some coupes in the area proposed ... for reservation will be logged over the next six months.
"That is, the proposed moratorium has been dumped."
Mr Rockefeller is a trustee of the billion-dollar Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which in 2005 donated $US200,000 to a campaign to protect Tasmania's forests.
Mr Rockefeller said if Gunns was to back away from sustainable forestry it would be a "major setback" for Tasmania and "irresponsible", leading to "renewed protests by well organised, international advocacy groups". Rockefeller Brothers' fund manager Michael Northrop said that Tasmania had scored a huge victory with Gunns' decisions on sustainable logging and it would be a "significant step backwards to reverse course". Examiner
12 March 2011 Forest win for Gunns
A new deal struck yesterday to halt logging in some of Tasmania's most iconic native forests will hand millions of dollars of federal compensation to timber company Gunns.
It will also mean some forests earmarked for preservation sacrificed to logging in the next six months.
Delighted forest industry groups said the deal also cemented ongoing harvesting in Tasmania's less significant public native forests for at least another 16 years.
The interim agreement putting in place a six-month moratorium on logging identified high-conservation-value forests was struck between environmentalists and forest industry groups late on Thursday night in Hobart's Parliament House.
Brokered by former union boss Bill Kelty after three months of round-table talks, the deal enshrines temporary protection for 600,000ha of previously unprotected HCV public native forests until early September.
Premier Lara Giddings yesterday described the agreement as a breakthrough, enshrining a secure supply of native forest timber for sawmillers until 2027.
She also welcomed enhanced protection of Tasmania's most iconic forests.
"I am pleased the Government, through Forestry Tasmania, has been able to facilitate an agreement that will not only protect agreed areas of HCV forests but will also guarantee wood supply for the sawmilling and veneer sector," Ms Giddings said.
"It is vital that timber workers and timber communities are protected through this process."
But bitter recriminations and counter-claims from all sides almost immediately surrounded the new deal.
Forestry Tasmania chief Bob Gordon warned against "unrealistic expectations" by environmentalists.
He also said Mr Kelty believed a lasting peace in Tasmania's forests after three decades of conflict was only possible "if the pulp mill at Bell Bay proceeds".
Angry environmental groups not included in the peace talks yesterday also alleged the deal contained dangerous loopholes.
It includes clauses allowing logging of any part of the newly protected HCV forests areas within the next six months, "if necessary to meet existing [wood] contracts or for the assurance of wood supply for existing industry".
Forestry Tasmania confirmed yesterday some of the HCV forest areas designated by environmental organisations to be "locked up" and "saved" under the deal would undoubtedly be logged before the September 11 moratorium deadline expired.
Mr Gordon said last night: "We cannot implement a moratorium overnight and still meet our contractual [wood supply] obligations."
Several environmental groups last night expressed concerns the new deal delayed an agreed March 15 moratorium on forest logging.
The deal also calls on the Federal Government to finance the buyout of some existing native forest logging contracts. Gunns has indicated it wants to relinquish all its harvesting rights to native forest timber.
Under existing prices, including the massive contract signed with Forestry Tasmania in 2007 to supply the proposed pulp mill, Gunns could expect a payout worth millions.
The Wilderness Society said last night it was only reasonable any company affected be paid fair compensation. Mercury
12 March 2011 Logger bid to bury hatchet
Gunns Ltd managing director Greg L'Estrange answers the critics and puts a case for frank debate over the Tamar Valley pulp mill plan.
There comes a time in any debate when someone has to shout above the din and call for quiet.
I'll take on that role just this once, and put fairly and squarely on the table the view of Gunns in what I see has become a far too emotional and destructive shouting match, rather than frank, healthy debate about the pulp mill, a major infrastructure project for Tasmania.
Gunns wants and needs a pulp mill. I don't resile from that, and will take all reasonable steps to secure the Bell Bay pulp mill in my role as managing director.
Some of those reasonable steps are exactly what Richard Flanagan called for in his last pulpit thump published in The Monthly nearly four years ago. The most significant of these was a decision by Gunns to abandon native forest logging and commit to 100 per cent plantation fibre source. That was a hard decision but one that should be recognised as a significant one.
Gunns made that decision for many sound reasons. I have a duty as a director to maximise long-term value for shareholders and I have, as part of that, a duty to the community in which my company operates. The two are inextricably linked.
Seeking peace with environmental campaigners and satisfying market demand for plantation-sourced pulp are compatible. These both mark the decision-making of a modern company trading back into growth and recognising a changing social and economic operating context.
The decision to exit from native forests was not based on the science that underpins native forest management or the long history we have had within the Tasmanian industry, but a judgment of what is needed to secure Gunns's future in response to a fundamental shift in community values and ultimately the market for forestry products.
We will look back in time and see this period as a critical moment in history. The environment leadership and a forestry "dinosaur" have had the maturity to see that their goals are, for once, aligned. Whatever motivations we bring to the peace table, we share a desire to see the native forest industry change. I restate: Gunns will not return to native forest logging, no matter what the outcome of the forest agreement talks.
I am not painting Gunns as born-again environmentalist to do so would stretch credibility too far but I do ask that people, including Richard Flanagan, understand the reason environment groups and Gunns had even tentatively managed to sketch out a future with no native logging by Gunns is because of mutual interest.
They, and many in the community, want it, and Gunns wants it. Richard Flanagan wanted it four years ago, but now it seems that is not enough.
I have consistently held that the supply of value-added pulp is the way of forestry's future, not export woodchips, and our customers have made it clear that any pulp they take cannot come from native forests.
To get out of native forests, we need a pulp mill. It's as simple as that.
I am unashamed of my intent to make peace with the environmental movement, even if it has caused a backlash in my own industry. Thirty years of fighting is far too long, and the casualties far too great. To fail to have a reasoned debate about the pulp mill, to fail to put aside long-held prejudices on all sides at this critical juncture, fails all Tasmanians.
The smoking ruin of that battle is a chronic distrust of government, Gunns and the now-fracturing environment movement. Which leaves us exactly where?
Is there any role for Gunns in taking the lead? I want to genuinely engage with our critics and supporters to make sure this mill gives more than it takes from Tasmania.
I don't expect long-standing and trenchant opponents of the mill to agree with me on the case that I put forward, but I do expect some recognition of the actions I have taken to operate Gunns differently, and in a way that deals with the stark realities facing my industry and with the stark realities of a few sections of the community that are upset and calling for Gunns's blood.
These actions have not been easy for Gunns, but we have embraced them as we are serious about change. They have included over the past 12 months:
A commitment to a plantation-only future for the pulp mill and our broader business.
The cessation of the usage of 1080 poison in Tasmania.
The start of the process to achieve dual certification of our forest estate by actively seeking FSC certification.
A voluntary retraction of legal proceedings, including the "Gunns 20" case.
The introduction of ECF-Light bleaching technology for the pulp mill.
The development of a Social Sustainability Framework to guide the transition to a modern business based on engagement, inclusion and transparency.
I can assure you of the transparency of our actions and the genuine desire to better engage with the communities in which we operate but for us to move forward requires a two-way street. I call on all parties to demonstrate the same transparency and willingness to engage.
My view is that Tasmania needs this mill, not just Gunns. The economy in Tasmania needs it. Exporting woodchips to Asia over the longer term does not provide the Tasmanian community with the best return on the significant plantation resource we have established here. But I put forward this view based on facts, and offer a commitment to listen, to discuss and explore options for a mutually agreeable future.
Richard Flanagan might want to go to jail in support of his long-held cynicism and contempt but it won't be Gunns's actions that put him there, it will be his own choices.
I want to engage in a proper discussion and I fully understand that putting old enemies aside is very difficult. We can't let that stand in the way.
Holding on to these feuds is a luxury I can't afford, nor can the rest of the Tasmanian community. Mercury
12 March 2011 Approval gives Gunns hope of finance: analysts
Gunns would already be using the euphoria of securing the last pulp mill permits this week to bed down finance for the Bell Bay project, according to financial analyst Chris Elliott.
Mr Elliott said that federal Environment Minister Tony Burke's approval of the three remaining modules of Gunns' environmental plan was the final piece of the jigsaw before a start on the mill.
"This will certainly put some clarity around the mill and improves Gunns' chances of going to a joint venture partner," Mr Elliott said.
"It makes it easier to go out into the marketplace and talk to financiers."
But Mr Elliott and Launceston commentator Tony Gray agreed that Gunns probably hoped that its share prices would have remained higher longer than they did after Thursday's permits announcement.
Mr Gray said that the price for Gunns' shares dropped by 7 per cent yesterday, the day after the permits had been granted.
"I think that had more to do with the broader market than related directly to what was going on here," Mr Gray said.
Gunns shares opened at 63¢ yesterday and fell to 56¢ by the close of trade. "That means that (securing the permits) hasn't been as well-received by the market as Gunns would have hoped," Mr Elliott said.
Mr Gray disagreed with other commentators who were suggesting that this week's activities set Gunns up as a takeover target.
"The company's market value might be $500 million but its debt level is more like $1 billion, so would you look at it?" he said.
"And you could say that they have a constant supply of wood chips but they are at an uncompetitive price."
Mr Gray saw the newly acquired permits as providing one less element of uncertainty for a potential equity partner in the proposed Bell Bay mill. Examiner
12 March 2011 Anti-mill group to speak at site
Gunns managing director Greg L'Estrange is not fazed by promises of an anti-pulp mill protest campaign bigger than the Franklin dam blockade.
"We acknowledge that there are some people in the community who have strong views on this and we acknowledge that there are a lot of people who want it to go ahead as well," he said.
"It is not only about those people who don't want this project to go ahead for some reason."
Mr L'Estrange said that he hoped that "a level of maturity and safety" was recognised when people protested.
A major protest has been called on March 20 at the site of Gunns proposed $2.3 billion pulp mill at Long Reach, near Bell Bay.
The protest has been organised by the Pulp the Mill group.
Speakers will include Peter Cundall, author Richard Flanagan and Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth.
"People have the right for protest - it is one that they need to work in a way that doesn't put people's lives at risk," Mr L'Estrange said.
He said that an incident a couple of weeks ago in Hobart, when a young woman chained herself to the bottom of a log truck at Franklin Wharf, had been distressing. Examiner
12 March 2011 Green movement outguns Gunns
The pulp mill company underestimated the strength and ingenuity of environmentalists, writes Paddy Manning (in a potted history of events). Sydney Morning herald
11 March 2011 Gunns targets August start on pulp mill
Gunns Ltd has only five months left to secure finance and start work on its $2.3 billion Bell Bay pulp mill before state permits run out.
Gunns managing director Greg L'Estrange said the company would focus on meeting the August deadline to have substantial site work under way after it secured the last federal environmental permits it needed yesterday. Examiner
11 March 2011 Gunns clarifies pulp mill noise, odour permits
Tasmanian timber company Gunns has rejected suggestions its Tamar Valley pulp mill will not meet state permits for odour emissions.
The Federal Government has passed the final approvals needed for Gunns to build and operate the mill.
But the Greens' Kim Booth says Gunns is struggling to meet some state permits, including noise.
"It's my understanding that Gunns is attempting to have that condition watered down," he said.
Managing director Greg L'Estrange says the company is working to clarify the state permits for noise and odour but he is comfortable they will be met.
"That's been trumpeted in the community that this a project that smells constantly. That is clearly wrong."
Mr L'Estrange hopes the ANZ bank will reconsider its 2008 decision not to be the lead financier.
The bank has been the timber company's lead financier for more than a decade, but the relationship hit rock bottom three years ago when the ANZ refused to finance the mill.
The ANZ said no to Gunns after a long campaign by environmentalists lobbying the bank to reject the mill on the basis of the bank's so called "equator principles" that consider the social and environmental risks of projects.
The ANZ has never revealed why it decided not to fund the mill but environmental groups belie it was because the mill did not meet the principles.
An ANZ spokesman says there has been no new request from Gunns to finance the mill.
But Mr L'Estrange hopes the bank will revisit the decision.
"We have a positive and ongoing relationship with the ANZ," he said.
"We understand their concerns and they had a number of concerns around the project previously as our lead bank.
"We'd like to see that relationship continue but that is a decision for the ANZ themselves," he said.
Financial analyst Peter Warnes, who is the head of equity research at Morningstar, says the ANZ might fund the mill if the company secures a joint venture partner.
"Financing the pulp mill is going to require significant levels of equity and that will be matched by a conservative or a realistic level of debt," Mr Warnes said.
"Greg has got to get some equity partners firstly and the power of those equity partners will probably determine whether or not ANZ, or any other bank, will then lend to the project.
"So it will depend on the level of equity that Greg and Gunns, and the investors that he is trying to coerce into the venture, that will determine the stance that ANZ takes," he said.
One of the mill's most fiercest opponents, the Tasmanian Greens Senator Christine Milne says the ANZ would not dare fund Gunns.
"I cannot imagine that ANZ would even consider it for a moment because they are signatories to the equator principles which require them to take into account the social and environmental impacts of a project," the Senator said.
"It requires them to be satisfied that there has been consultation with local communities about their concerns so I think ANZ would run a mile rather than be involved in a project which has no social licence."
The Commonwealth Bank yesterday increased its shareholding in Gunns to 5 per cent but says the bank has no direct investment in the timber company.
Gunns' share price dropped nearly 5 per cent this morning. ABC
11 March 2011 Gunns wants ANZ to reconsider pulp mill
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Now that the timber company Gunns has cleared the final regulatory hurdle for its proposed pulp mill it's now searching for investors and it's revealed it's turning to an old friend - the ANZ bank.
It's been almost three years since the bank said no to Gunns' request to finance the $2.3 billion pulp mill project.
The ANZ never revealed why it knocked Gunns back but environmental groups had been lobbying the bank to refuse to finance the mill.
Yesterday the Federal Government gave Gunns its final environmental approval for the mill and the company hopes that will prompt the ANZ to reconsider.
FELICITY OGILVIE: Gunns has a long history with the ANZ bank. The bank has been the timber company's lead financier for more than a decade.
But the relationship hit rock bottom three years ago when the ANZ refused to finance Gunns' pulp mill.
The ANZ said no to Gunns after a long campaign by environmentalists who were lobbying the bank to reject the mill on the basis of the bank's so called equator principles that consider the social and environmental risks of projects.
The ANZ never revealed why it decided not to fund Gunns' pulp mill but the environmental groups said it was because the mill didn't meet the equator principles.
Yesterday Gunns got a green light from the Federal Government after having all the environmental conditions for pulp mill approved.
Gunns has also been wooing anti-mill groups after years of hostility and says it has asked for stricter conditions to be placed on the mill after talking to environmental groups.
It's all part of the company's bid to show it's meeting social and environmental obligations in order to get finance for the project that Gunns says will now cost $2.3 billion to complete.
And this morning the head of Gunns Greg L'Estrange has revealed he still hopes the ANZ will help fund the pulp mill.
GREG L'ESTRANGE: We have a positive and ongoing relationship with the ANZ. We understand their concerns and they had a number of concerns around the project previously as our lead bank.
We have an ongoing relationship with them. We'd like to see that relationship continue but that is a decision for the ANZ themselves.
FELICITY OGILVIE: After the ANZ rejected Gunns three years ago the company went overseas in its quest to get a joint venture partner and cash for the mill.
The company says it has two potential joint venture partners but it can't reveal who they are because of confidentiality agreements.
Speculation is that one of the potential partners is Asian Pulp and Paper and the other is a Finnish company called UPM.
A financial analyst Peter Warnes who is the head of equity research at Morningstar says the ANZ might fund Gunns if the company secures a joint venture partner.
PETER WARNES: Well financing the pulp mill is going to require significant levels of equity and that will be matched by a conservative or a realistic level of debt.
Greg has got to get some equity partners firstly and the power of those equity partners will probably determine whether or not ANZ or any other bank will then lend to the project.
So it will depend on the level of equity that Greg and Gunns and the investors that he is trying to coerce into the venture, that will determine the stance that ANZ takes.
FELICITY OGILVIE: But one of the mill's most fierce opponents the Tasmanian Greens Senator Christine Milne says the ANZ wouldn't dare fund Gunns.
CHRISTINE MILNE: I cannot imagine that ANZ would even consider it for a moment because they are signatories to the equator principles which require them to take into account the social and environmental impacts of a project. And it requires them to be satisfied that there has been consultation with local communities about their concerns.
So I think ANZ would run a mile rather than be involved in a project which has no social licence.
FELICITY OGILVIE: But hasn't Gunns changed? The company actually went to the Federal Government with self imposed stricter environmental guidelines that the company came to a point of after starting to meet with concerned community groups.
CHRISTINE MILNE: Look frankly that's nail polish on the foot of battery hen. As far as I'm concerned this project was corrupted in its assessment process.
FELICITY OGILVIE: The ANZ bank is refusing to say if it would consider financing the pulp mill now that Gunns has the final federal environmental approvals.
A spokesman for the bank says it hasn't been approached by Gunns for finance for the mill again so it's not under consideration by the ANZ at this stage.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Felicity Ogilvie with that report from Hobart. ABC
11 March 2011 Gunns pulp mill gets go ahead
Tasmanian forestry company Gunns has secured final federal approval for its controversial $2.3 billion Bell Bay pulp mill, but the Australian Greens have warned they will step up the fight to stop the project going ahead.
Federal environment minister Tony Burke yesterday approved the final three sections of the environmental management plan, giving the final tick to the Tamar Valley pulp mill 3 years after it was given conditional approval by former Howard government environment minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Greens leader Senator Brown has not ruled out a legal challenge to the approval, vowing' the campaign will continue in parliament' to stop the mill.
'There is an injustice being done here,' Senator Brown said.
Mr Burke also approved changes to previously approved parts of the plan after Gunns toughened environmental controls. The sections signed off yesterday relate to ocean discharge, environmental monitoring, land clearing and reporting requirements.
Conditions include an improved chlorine bleaching process and a specification only plantation-grown timber can be used by the mill.
A new route for the mill's pipeline, which Gunns sought in response to requests from local councils, residents and community groups, has also been approved by Mr Burke.
'This decision is based on a thorough and rigorous assessment by my department and the Independent Expert Group, which has carefully reviewed the modelling and scientific studies done by Gunns,' Mr Burke said.
Tamar Valley resident and member of community group Pulp the Mill, Lucy Landon Lane, said residents were 'distressed and angered' by the approval.
'We feel that Tony Burke has been a traitor to the environment,' she said.
'The marine modules [of the plan] did not take into account any assessment of what is going to happen to the marine environment of Tasmania's coastal waters.'
Bob McMahon from the group TAP Into A Better Tasmanian has warned the mill will plunge the state into economic turmoil. Canberra Times
11 March 2011 Financial backing Gunns' next pulp mill hurdle
Gunns wants to build the mill next to its woodchip site in the Tamar Valley.
Gunns says it is talking with two overseas companies interested in jointly funding the Tamar Valley mill. (ABC News)
The Tasmanian timber company Gunns is turning its attention to finding a joint venture partner for its pulp mill after clearing the final environmental hurdles.
The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has applied stricter environmental conditions on the mill on the banks of the Tamar River, just outside Launceston.
But getting the $2.5 billion it is going to take to build the mill could be double trouble for Gunns.
Managing Director, Greg L'Estrange, hopes the ANZ Bank will now consider financial backing.
Mr L'Estrange says while the ANZ declined in 2008 to be the lead financier of the pulp mill, he hopes it will reconsider the project.
"We have a positive and ongoing relationship with the ANZ," he said.
"We understand their concerns and they had a number of concerns around the project previously.
"As our lead bank we have an ongoing relationship with them, we'd like to see that continue but that is a decision for the ANZ."
Mr L'Estrange will not confirm media reports that the potential partners include Finnish company UPM and Asia Pulp and Paper, saying confidentiality agreements prevent him from commenting.
But a financial analyst is warning that the company has now become ripe for a takeover from the potential partners its asking to help fund the mill.
The final federal permits will force the company to use plantation timber and a cleaner bleaching process.
Those stricter environmental conditions will make the company more attractive to investors, according to Mr L'Estrange who says two overseas companies are interested in becoming joint venture partners.
"We've had the two parties that we have been in discussions with and those are ongoing," he said.
"I think this is certainly a timeframe that it is down to the stage where we have certain time constraints around things to do and we are very mindful of those."
Under the state and federal permit system Gunns has to start building the mill by August this year.
A financial analyst Matthew Torenius from Shadforths says the final approvals will either help Gunns get a joint venture partner, or the company could be taken over.
"I think with the approvals now through, any potential joint venture partner may look at the project and decide that it may even be a better idea making a full takeover bid for the company," Mr Torenius said.
"There is no doubt that Gunns has a very high quality asset base in terms of its plantations.
"There is going to be a growing demand for those plantations in the years to come, especially out of the Asian region.
"One of the issues that is holding Gunns back at the moment is its relatively poor cash flow from its continuing business operations, so it is really in a prime position for a takeover now that we've seen these approvals passed by the Commonwealth Government," he said.
But anti-mill campaigner, Geoffrey Cousins, says Gunns Pulp Mill is not a wise investment.
He says Gunns needs to get the support of the local community in order to get finance for the mill.
"The licence that Gunns need is the social licence to operate, not the government licence to operate, because no one is going to give them the money and no one is going to partner them if they think they're getting mixed up in a project that is mired in controversy."
Greens fight on
The Tasmanian Greens have vowed to stop Gunns' Tasmanian pulp mill, including rolling back state approvals.
The Greens' Kim Booth says he will work to block the project if it wins finance, including pushing for legislative changes.
"It is absolutely reviled by the Tasmanian population," he said.
"There will be increasing, and I would say, massive protests against this pulp mill were anyone foolish enough to fund it."
Mr Booth's motions appear doomed to fail with the Liberal Leader, Will Hodgman, backing the new environmental controls.
"This project has been subject to extensive scrutiny," he said.
The state Resources Minister Bryan Green is also happy.
"It's important from the point of view of building a new forest industry."
Mr Green would not rule out legislative changes to assist the mill if requested by Gunns.
The project's environmental approval has been met with relief from the timber industry.
The industry says the mill will provide stability and much-needed jobs after a difficult period.
Terry Edwards from the Forest Industries Association says it is time for the community to move on.
"The umpire has spoken," Mr Edwards said.
Barry Chipman from Timber Communities Australia says the mill will create much needed jobs and stability after a difficult few years for the sector.
"It provides a light at the end of the tunnel, and in this period of time that's been a fairly dark tunnel, but now we have a ray of sunshine and the faith and the commitment to the mill that timber families throughout Tasmania have had for seven years now is coming to fruition."
The Wilderness Society's Vica Bayley has welcomed the environmental controls but says his organisation remains opposed to the mill in its current form.
"There are still outstanding concerns that the community and environment groups can prosecute around this mill and we would call on the government, and the company, to instigate a robust, a thorough and independent process that assesses the impacts of this mill and involves the views of the community," he said.
"We do recognise in this decision there have been some positive steps forward."
Green groups have vowed to chain themselves to machinery if necessary to stop the Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania's north.
A spokeswoman for Community Opposing the Destruction of the Environment, Lisa Searle, says protestors will take direct action.
"[They will] go in there and lock themselves to the machines and effectively blockade the site," she said.
"There is no limit to the number of people who are willing to do that sort of thing to go in there are lock themselves to the machines and effectively blockade the site, we will do that if we have to."
A Tamar Valley residents group is not satisfied with the tougher environmental conditions.
A spokeswoman the Tamar Valley Concerned Residents group, Anna Pilkington, says people still do not trust Gunns.
"It's kind of like the bully in the playground that's constantly bullying a smaller kid over six long years and then suddenly coming out with a small bag of lollies and expecting them then to be best friends," she said.
"It's simply not going to happen and the trust is gone."
Lucy Landon Lane from the group Pulp the Mill fears the mill's effluent will still contain enough toxins to cause serious damage.
Gunns' chief, Greg L'Estrange says the company is not opposed to peaceful protests, but he has urged caution. ABC
10 March 2011 Pulp mill approvals welcomed - Support for native forest industry must remain
Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck has welcomed today’s announcement from Environment Minister Tony Burke which grants the final approvals necessary for Gunns to proceed with the Longreach pulp mill.
“This is good news for Tasmania,” Senator Colbeck said.
“It is time to stop demonising the pulp mill project. The mill should now proceed for the benefit of all Tasmanians.
“Gunns is determined to put forward a mill that meets more stringent environmental conditions than any other mill in the world.
“Today’s advice from Minister Burke regarding elemental chlorine-free light technology, plantation-only timber, alterations to the wharf design and pipeline and the ‘no backward step’ standard clause prove Gunns is sticking to its guiding principal,” Senator Colbeck said
Senator Colbeck said while he welcomed today’s announcement regarding the pulp mill, he was gravely concerned for the future of Tasmania’s native forest sector following Premier Gidding’s directions to Forestry Tasmania today.
“There is no scientific descriptor or set of scientific criteria for “high conservation value.
“Previously conservationists have claimed parts of 28 year old regrowth forests, previously logged forests, parts of an artillery range and pine and eucalypt plantations as ‘high conservation value’.
“Ms Giddings is taking Tasmania’s forestry industry into dangerous territory by kowtowing to an ideology campaign that is not supported by science.
“Gunns made its own commercial decision to withdraw from native forest activity, but there are a number of other Tasmanian businesses who do not want to leave this sector.
“Plantations are an important part of the forest industry, but there are some products that you just cannot get from plantations so many businesses across Australia rely on high quality, slow-grown products that are sourced from sustainable managed native forests,” Senator Colbeck said. Tasmanian Liberals
10 March 2011 Greens Reject Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill
The Australian Greens today reaffirmed their opposition to the Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill and vowed to support the Tasmanian community in its ongoing efforts to protect the environment and stop the mill.
"Everyone knows that the approval process for this mill was totally corrupt and instead of legitimising it, the Federal Government should have demanded that the proponents resubmit their final proposal to a proper assessment process." Senator Christine Milne said today.
"Instead of giving Gunns the green light, the federal government should have backed the community in demanding rigorous analysis of the whole project especially since the Tasmanian government has proved to be such a company quisling.
"The people of the Tamar Valley do not want this mill and it has no social licence to operate.
"Potential joint venture partners need to be aware that the community is determined never to see this mill built in the Tamar Valley.
"The site was never justified in terms of atmospheric pollution or dispersion and dilution of pollution into Bass Strait"
"Atmospheric inversion in the Tamar Valley in winter will trap the pollution from the stacks and a great big stench will descend over the whole area when fugitive rotten egg gas emissions contaminate the air.
"Noise remains a big issue as this mill will operate 24 hours a day, and Gunns knows it cannot meet its noise level requirements.
"Having promised a chlorine free mill, ECF light will still deliver organochlorines into the marine environment where they will bioaccumulate in the food chain.
"Monitoring after the event is no substitute for not having the mill there in the first place," Senator Milne said. Greens
10 March 2011 Gunns OK won't end public objections
Federal government approval of the $2.5 billion Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania won't end community objections, an outspoken opponent of the project has warned.
There was no way Gunns would ever get the social licence it needed to attract financing without proper public consideration of the project, Sydney businessman Geoffrey Cousins said.
Environment Minister Tony Burke is tipped to give final federal approval for the mill later on Thursday.
The project, launched in 2004, has divided the Tamar Valley community in northern Tasmania.
'If Gunns think there has been any lessening of opposition to the mill in the local communities and indeed in the community generally, they are greatly mistaken,' Mr Cousins told ABC Radio.
'If anything, that opposition has stiffened over the years.'
Mr Cousins said the mill was set to be approved on conditions Gunns rejected initially as unacceptable.
He acknowledged the company's chief executive Greg L'Estrange was trying to do better, having undertaken not to log native forests and to reduce chlorine emissions.
'But no one believes him,' Mr Cousins said, adding the statements had to be tested in the public arena.
'There has got to be a proper public hearing process if they want to get that social licence to operate and they have to get it.' Sky Business News
11 March 2011 Mill could boost North West Coast or work against it
Gunns Ltd must still find an equity partner for its $2.5 billion Tamar Valley pulp mill in the face of opposition outraged by yesterday's federal approval.
If the mill is built, it has potential to benefit North- West engineering firms but also to lure some workers away, according to Advance Burnie chairman Lee Whiteley.
Economist Saul Eslake believes the strong opposition to the mill may discourage potential funders.
Environment Minister Tony Burke approved the mill yesterday, which led to fury from mill opponents and a warning to potential investors.
"Everyone knows that the approval process for this mill was totally corrupt and, instead of legitimising it, the Federal Government should have demanded that the proponents resubmit their final proposal to a proper assessment process," Greens Senator Christine Milne said.
"Instead of giving Gunns the green light, the Federal Government should have backed the community in demanding rigorous analysis of the whole project, especially since the Tasmanian Government has proved to be such a company Quisling.
"Potential partners need to be aware that the community is determined never to see this mill built in the Tamar Valley."
Gunns said it had heard community concerns since the original 2007 approval and tried to address them.
"Fundamental to that has been the adoption of a 100% plantation strategy and the adoption of the latest bleaching technology ... which has allowed a significant reduction in chlorine dioxide usage," managing director Greg L'Estrange said.
He said Gunns was continuing a due diligence process with potential equity investors in the mill.
Mr Whiteley said: "It goes without saying a construction job of that magnitude will generate a lot of engineering activity, so in the engineering sector it could be seen as an upside."
"On the other side there will be a lot of local jobs generated and it could attract a number of North- West Coast employees away from existing employers to pulp mill activity.
"Everyone is still waiting to see how this is going to work."
Mr Eslake said any foreign equity investor or lender would still need to consider the impact on its reputation of a "well organised campaign against it by people who were opposed to ... the mill".
He said it was possible, for example, there may be a Chinese-owned state enterprise which did not "give a rat's" about public opinion. Advocate
10 March 2011 Gunns gets final pulp mill approval
MARK COLVIN: The Federal Government has given Gunns the final approval it needs to build Australia's biggest pulp mill in northern Tasmania.
The head of Gunns says today's decision is a critical step in the company's bid to secure finance for the two-and-a-half billion dollar project.
But local anti-mill groups are warning potential investors that there will be massive protests.
FELICITY OGILVIE: Gunns' controversial pulp mill project has got the final tick of approval from the Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke.
But it's not a simple yes. There are thousands of pages describing the conditions under which Gunns must operate the mill.
The company is only allowed to use plantation timber in the mill; no native forests can be pulped.
And Tony Burke says a cleaner chlorine process will be used to protect Bass Strait.
TONY BURKE: The discharge can only occur through what's known as elemental chlorine free light technology. This is a much tougher environmental condition on the discharge. It is one that has been demanded by environmental groups; it is something which Gunns have been saying they were willing to do; they will now have to do it as a condition of the development.
FELICITY OGILVIE: Most of the new tougher conditions he put on the mill today were instigated by Gunns last week.
But today Tony Burke went a step further and put his own condition on the mill.
He says it means Gunns will never be allowed to ask for the environmental conditions to be softened.
TONY BURKE: Given the circumstances and the history and some of the community concerns as well, I wanted to make sure that putting in what is regarded as a standard clause did not allow anyone to believe that there could be backward steps in the environmental footprint from today.
FELICITY OGILVIE: The company has welcomed the approval, saying it is a critical step in getting finance for the $2.3 billion dollar project.
Greg L'Estrange is the managing director of Gunns.
GREG L'ESTRANGE: Well although we had the permits to be able to construct the facility, operational permits were still outstanding and if you're a financier, be it debt or equity, you have that uncertainty towards a $2.3 billion investment.
So it's always, ah, reduces that uncertainty by having these approvals now in place.
FELICITY OGILVIE: How close is the company now to getting a joint venture partner to fund the pulp mill?
GREG L'ESTRANGE: We are moving through that process diligently in a methodical way and these things, of this scale and complexity, do have their own timetable. We are getting closer towards that end destination.
FELICITY OGILVIE: He says the company volunteered to impose its own stricter guidelines for the project after talking to environmental groups. But those groups are still refusing to support the mill.
Don Henry from the Australian Conservation Foundation is speaking on behalf of the environmental groups.
DON HENRY: We acknowledge that there's been constructive progress on a legal requirement that only plantation wood will be used; that means native forests won't be damaged and destroyed. There appears to be some progress on the marine but we want to look at that closely and the issue of outstanding community concern about the pulp mill still remains.
So there is a remaining question that it highly significant about a lack of social licence for the mill and we're not supporting it as it stands.
FELICITY OGILVIE: The Tasmanian Greens Senator Bob Brown is also pointing to opposition from the residents in the Tamar Valley as a reason why the mill could still fail.
BOB BROWN: The Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke has ticked off from his small box as far as the Gunns pulp mill is concerned, but that's not a social licence, that's not a tick-off from the people of the Tamar Valley; it's not a tick-off from the Greens and it won't be.
And it is a long way before this pulp mill starts its job of polluting as prescribed in that location on the Tamar River.
FELICITY OGILVIE: One of the Tamar Valley residents who is outraged by today's approval is Lucy Landon Lane, she's from the group Pulp the Mill.
LUCY LANDON LANE: The community is extremely distressed and angered. We feel that Tony Burke has been a traitor to the environment. The marine modules did not take into account any assessment of what is going to happen to the marine environment on Tasmania's coastal waters within the state jurisdiction.
FELICITY OGILVIE: Another local anti mill group, TAP(Tasmanians Against the Pulpmill), which is run by Bob McMahon is planning big protests.
BOB MCMAHON: Should any construction even begin, then you can imagine all those messy confrontational blockades and so on that will go on. This will not be an easy road for anyone. Any potential investor listening right now must understand that the risks that are attached to this are going to be vast and a lot of them will come the public.
MARK COLVIN: Anti-mill campaigner Bob McMahon ending Felicity Ogilvie's report. ABC
11 March 2011 Gunns' Tasmanian pulp mill clear but bad smell lingers
After seven long years of fraught deliberations by three federal ministers, court challenges and endless controversy, Gunns finally achieved a green light from Canberra for its Tasmanian pulp mill yesterday.
However, in keeping with what has become one of the nation's longest-running industrial project sagas, an 11th-hour hitch emerged that may yet stymie the $2.3 billion project.
Hours after Environment Minister Tony Burke declared the mill had cleared the final federal environmental hurdles, it emerged that the company was having difficulty meeting existing state permit conditions.
Gunns managing director Greg L'Estrange told The Australian the federal decision was a "major step" in gaining financial backers for the project, proposed for the Tamar Valley.
"It will allow us to fully focus on that part of the transaction (securing finance and a joint venture partner)," he said.
"It's a step forward, but there are still things to do and we have a timeline we are working from."
He said Gunns was working on the basis of meeting a requirement of its state permit to have begun construction by the end of August. However, he appeared to confirm that it was struggling to meet several requirements of its state permit relating to noise and odour emissions -- and may require changes.
Mr L'Estrange said Gunns was seeking "harmonisation" between state and federal permits, and did not deny this might lead to a reduction in some state permit requirements. "But it's not what I would call a material change," he added.
He said meeting noise limits under the state permits would be challenging and the company was "working through that" with the state government.
"We're seeking some clarification of issues of a relatively minor nature," he said.
Odour emissions represent a key issue for a project on the doorstep of a tourism, food and wine region. The release of odours from gases, such as total reduced sulphur, also known as rotten egg gas, was an area where Gunns has already failed to meet state guidelines.
Tasmania's fast-tracked state approvals process found this was only a "minor" issue and that the guideline would be exceeded only once every 11 years, and mainly over non-populated areas.
Mr L'Estrange said last night there had been some "overly ambitious early discussions around odour".
"If for some reason, for example a total (power) blackout in the region . . . there will be some odours emitted from the site and it's normally in the range of 15 minutes to one hour," he said.
"In normal situations in mills around the world, in the first year of operation, that might happen four times. Normally, it is one, maybe two, times a year. That's allowed under the state permit."
It is not yet clear whether the changes Gunns has sought to the state permit could require legislative change to the state permits.
Greens MP Kim Booth said last night if legislative changes to the permits were sought, he would move a no-confidence motion against the minority Labor government.
This could split his party, two members of which are in cabinet with Labor, and threaten the stability of the Giddings Labor government.
While there is much opposition to the mill in the Tamar, with local groups yesterday joining the Greens in condemning the federal approval, some in the valley, north of Launceston, welcomed it.
Doug Burt, the Mayor of George Town near the mill site, said: "There is a fair level of frustration at the time the process has taken -- people are just looking for a decision one way or the other. Obviously we have extremes on both sides, and there are some hot spots of opposition on the other (western) side of the river (Tamar), but there is a groundswell in this area that thinks 'get on with it'."
He said the mill would be a boon not only for George Town but also the entire valley, with accommodation units already built to cater for the influx of up to 2000 construction workers.
As revealed in The Australian last week, Gunns has agreed to amended federal conditions guaranteeing a 40 per cent cut to previously planned chlorine emissions and excluding native timber from all mill feedstock.
"There are now tougher (federal) environmental conditions and they are not simply a matter of trust, they are conditions for the development to go ahead," Mr Burke said.
Green groups, who are resisting a push by Gunns for the mill to be part of a forest peace deal in Tasmania, welcomed this element of the decision but were critical of other aspects.
Yesterday, the prospects of a forests peace deal improved, with the Tasmanian government belatedly agreeing to order a moratorium on logging of high conservation value forests.
Julia Gillard has linked the mill to the forest deal and not ruled out providing assistance to the project, such as by acting as guarantor to investors via the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation.
Gunns is known to be talking to two potential joint venture companies, with speculation centring on Finnish company UPM and Asia Pulp & Paper.
Greens leader Bob Brown and fellow Tasmanian senator Christine Milne warned that the Greens would do all in their power to prevent taxpayer support and urged everyone to "get behind the people of the Tamar". Australian
10 March 2011 Still a long way to go for Gunns - Brown
There is a long way to go before the Gunns pulp mill is built, despite it securing the approval of the Federal Government, the Australian Greens say.
Environment Minister Tony Burke on Thursday gave the final tick to the controversial mill to be built at Bell Bay in northern Tasmania, some three and a half years after it first secured conditional approval.
Mr Burke delayed the decision after Gunns itself sought tougher environmental controls last week.
Greens leader Bob Brown said Gunns still needed to convince the local community of the mill's credentials.
"The minister for the environment has ticked off from his small box as far as the Gunns pulp mill is concerned, but that's not a social licence," Senator Brown said.
"That's not a tick-off from the people of the Tamar Valley, it's not a tick-off from the Greens, and it won't be.
"It is a long way before that pulp mill starts its job of polluting as prescribed in that location."
Mr Burke approved separate modules dealing with effluent trigger levels, land clearing and marine monitoring.
Other conditions related to response strategies that will kick in if and when the mill fails to meet different requirements.
Discharge of effluent was one of the most contentious issues with the mill.
"It will now be a condition of the project as a whole that the discharge can only occur through what's known as elemental chlorine-free light technology," Mr Burke told reporters in Canberra.
The technology is a form of bleaching.
"This is a much tougher environmental condition.
"It is one that has been demanded by environmental groups, it is something which Gunns have been saying they were willing to do, they will now have to do it as a condition of the development."
But Greens Senator Christine Milne said the new standards weren't as stringent as those Gunns had initially promised.
"Gunns said it would build a totally chlorine-free mill," Senator Milne told reporters in Hobart.
"That was its proposal and it has failed by its very own mouth."
Senator Brown said the Greens would fight against "any dollars" from the federal government going to the building of the pulp mill.
But Tasmanian Deputy Premier Bryan Green said the mill presented tremendous opportunities for the state.
"This will be by far one of the cleanest and technologically advanced pulp mills in the world using only plantation stock," he said.
"The government is hopeful the mill goes ahead because of the enormous economic benefits to Tasmania and the opportunity to build a new forest industry around our world class plantation resource." AAP News
10 March 2011 Pulp mill ruling imminent
The Federal Environment Minister is due to hand down his decision today on whether Gunns can start building its pulp mill in the Tamar Valley.
It is the last regulatory hurdle for the company's $2.5 billion project, which still needs a financial backer.
Gunns has asked the Federal Government to put stricter environmental controls on the mill's permits after talking with environment groups.
They include a ban on using native forests and a 40 per cent reduction in chlorate emissions.
Mill opponents in the Tamar Valley have threatened protests bigger than the Franklin Dam dispute if the project is approved.
They have already protested outside Parliament House and in logging coupes this week demanding an immediate moratorium on logging in high conservation value forests.
The man charged with negotiating a moratorium with industry and green groups, Bill Kelty, is also due to hand down his interim report.
Gunns has been warned by one of the strongest opponents its greatest battle lies ahead; winning over the Tasmanian people.
Sydney businessman, Geoffrey Cousins says regardless of what the Minister decides, Gunns faces an uphill battle to win community support in the Tamar Valley.
"If Gunns think there has been any lessening of opposition to this mill in the local communities and indeed generally, they are greatly mistaken," he said.
"In fact, the level has gone up. When we started this campaign a lot of people in Tasmania said 'you can't beat Gunns'.
"Now the community has the general feeling 'we've beaten them'.
Mr Cousins says Gunns' decision to withdraw the project from the Resource Planning and Development Commission four years ago created massive public anger.
If Gunns wants to obtain a "social licence" for the mill, Mr Cousins says it needs to put the project back in the public domain for debate.
"They have to get it, they need. No respectable bank is going to fund them."
"You might remember the ANZ Bank, the long term bankers to Gunns for many many years, refused to finance this mill.
"No one wants to get involved in a project where they know there's going to be great social unrest," he said.
The Australian Conservation Foundation says the pulp mill proposal is flawed and should be rejected.
But the foundation's Lindsay Hesketh says a pulp mill with a social licence and tough environmental guidelines would benefit Tasmania.
"We support the pulp and paper industry in Australia, we need to because Australians are very large consumers of pulp and paper products," he said.
"We consume over four million tonnes a year, and only manufacture two of that. The rest is imported from extremely bad forest practices."
Green groups involved in the forestry peace deal have come under fire for not opposing the Gunns' proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.
Last week Phil Pullinger from Environment Tasmania welcomed the stricter controls on the mill, but stopped short of fully supporting or opposing the project.
Lisa Searle from the group Community Opposing the Destruction of the Environment says green groups should not accept a pulp mill in exchange for an end to logging in high conservation value areas.
"That will be a complete sell out. We don't want a pulp mill in Tasmania, and we want cessation of logging in all high conservation value forests," she said.
"It is not a trade off. The two should not be inextricably linked and I don't think that Tasmania should have to choose between one and the other.
"There's no change that Gunns could make to their current pulp mill proposal that would make us be behind it, that would make us support this current proposal."
"We don't want a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, we don't want a pulp mill in Tasmania.
Meanwhile, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust has complained to the Stock Exchange about public statements which the head of Gunns made about the company's dealings with environmental groups.
The Managing Director of Gunns Greg L'Estrange has told the ABC that the company has been having positive ongoing discussions with some environmental groups about the pulp mill.
The Conservation Trust says there has been no meaningful consultation and that environment groups still oppose the pulp mill.
But Gunns is standing by the comments. Yahoo Finance
9 March 2011 Gunns waits to start pipeline
Gunns has not started work on the pipeline to take water to its proposed Bell Bay pulp mill even though it has access to the land it needs. A Gunns spokesman said yesterday it now had the agreements it needed with landowners affected by the pipeline proposed to take water from Trevallyn Dam to the $2.3 billion pulp mill site. The company had faced criticism from property owners along the initial East Tamar route for the pipeline, who refused to allow it to cross their land. The Department of Infrastructure Energy and Resources also took flak last year when it was accused of laying a section of the pipe north from Rocherlea for Gunns. But a department spokeswoman said this week that land had been acquired by the government for the highway before the Gunns pipeline was mooted. She said that a section of the pipeline had been laid during the highway construction so that it would not have to be dug up again. Gunns had paid for the installation. Examiner
9 March 2011 Environment group complains about Gunns
The Tasmanian Conservation Trust has complained to the stock exchange about public statements by the head of the Gunns timber company. The managing director of Gunns, Greg L'Estrange, says the company is having positive discussions with some environment groups about the company's pulp mill. But the Conservation Trust says there's been no meaningful consultation. ABC
8 March 2011 Gunns wants stricter rules for its pulp mill
Gunns says it will impose stricter guidelines on its proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.
In an interview on ABC radio this morning, Gunns chief executive Greg L'Estrange said the company was proposing to use only plantation timber in the mill and would change to a different bleaching process, which will reduce the amount of chlorine emissions.
Mr L'Estrange said Gunns had been holding discussions with a number of environmental groups, which he described as positive.
"We think by embedding some of those voluntary undertakings that we've given to date would be a very positive thing to be able to incorporate those in the permits so that everyone would be comfortable in going forward with the operation," he told the ABC.
A decision on the mill's final environmental approval was due last Thursday, however the company sought tougher controls, prompting Environment Minister Tony Burke to extend the announcement until Thursday this week. Examiner
8 March 2011 Gunns and green groups discuss guidelines for Tamar timber mill
TONY EASTLEY: At one stage it would have been highly unlikely, probably unthinkable, but Gunns, the company that wants to build a big pulp mill in Tasmania, has confirmed it's been holding confidential discussions with environmental groups.
The Federal Government will announce this week whether Gunns gets the go ahead for the controversial mill on the Tamar River near Launceston.
In a bid to win its case Gunns says it will impose voluntary stricter environmental guidelines than it initially proposed.
This includes using plantation timber and a cleaner bleaching process.
The managing director of Gunns, Greg L'Estrange, told Felicity Ogilvie that Gunns made the changes in order to get the support of environmental groups.
GREG L'ESTRANGE: Well we've been having ongoing discussions with a range of the environmental groups. They've been positive.
But we came to the view that we think by embedding some of those voluntary undertakings that we'd been given to date such as plantations and the bleaching process known as ECF light would be a very positive thing to be able to incorporate those in the permit so that everyone would be comfortable going forward that the operation, indeed the company, wouldn't be stepping back from that process.
FELICITY OGILVIE: Who are the environmental groups and will they support the pulp mill?
GREG L'ESTRANGE: They certainly have made some positive statements around our commitment to the improvement and engagement, but I think…
FELICITY OGILVIE: And what - which groups are they specifically that you've been engaging with?
GREG L'ESTRANGE: I've had a range of conversations with a number of groups. Some of them have been willing to progress those matters; others haven't wanted to engage.
But the offer is there, and we seek to continue to that engagement going forward.
FELICITY OGILVIE: Gunns is looking to engage with the environmental groups and community in order to get what's known as a social licence so that you can get finance for the $2.5 billion project.
The company has told the stock exchange that you have two potential joint venture partners.
Where is Gunns up to in terms of getting finance at the moment?
GREG L'ESTRANGE: (Inaudible) no process but again if you look at all of the engagements and permit conditions they are all contributing towards (inaudible) resolution.
That is not here today but certainly we are making process on those fronts.
TONY EASTLEY: The managing director of Gunns, Greg L'Estrange, speaking to Felicity Ogilvie. ABC
7 March 2011 No new approval process for Gunns mill
Tasmania's Premier has ruled out a new approval process for Gunns' proposed pulp mill in the state's north.
Lara Giddings acknowledges there is a crisis in confidence in the process set up to assess the Tamar Valley mill by a previous Labor government.
But she said a new process would not sway some people's opposition to the project.
"I don't think their views would change, even if you started again," she said.
"We've also had a process, a long process now, one that's gone over many many years with a lot of checks and balances put in place.
"This is not just about the State Government, the Australian Government has had to approve this pulp mill as well." ABC
6 March 2011 Set for pulp mill battle
A Tasmanian anti-pulp mill group says it will be ready to act in the next two weeks to stop Gunns' pulp mill plans.
TAP Into A Better Tasmania spokesman Bob McMahon said at the first sign of further developments, TAP would be there.
"If the government wishes to introduce particularly stupid laws to curtail us, we'll welcome that," Mr McMahon said.
He said the group had plans to disrupt the "incredible illegitimate process that's gone on in Tasmania", but refused to give details.
"You will soon find out," he said.
"Probably within the next two weeks.
"It'll just be a little token of what we might expect for the future."
A federal government decision on the three remaining modules for the $2.3 billion project's environmental impact management plans will be known on Thursday.
The decision represents the last legal barrier to the proposed mill.
A decision was expected last week, but Environment Minister Tony Burke extended the deadline because Gunns wanted tougher environmental controls than those in the original application.
On Friday, Gunns did not detail the stricter controls it had sought but managing director Greg L'Estrange has said the company wanted to build the mill using the best available technology with the best environmental controls available.
Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth said on Friday that he would withdraw his support from the Labor-Greens alliance if the government used any public money for the mill.
Mr McMahon said the idea of the pulp mill was disgraceful.
"I mean how productive is a hectare of fibre-producing trees, such as Eucalyptus nitens, compared to say a field of anything," he said.
"Hay is more valuable than pulp fibre."
Mr McMahon said if the government went ahead with the mill, it was making a foolish decision.
"To create a few jobs, you are going to lose an awful lot of other ones," he said.
"It's a crazy game and it was only ever something that was a result of political pressure." Examiner
7 March 2011 Pulp mill protesters step up campaign
Forty protesters yesterday converged on the proposed Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill site to unfurl banners voicing their anger against the project.
The protesters, who united as the Community Opposing the Destruction of the Environment, said they planned a joint approach from all groups against the pulp mill.
Opponents include Peter Cundall, Tasmanians Against a Pulp Mill, Tasmanian Conservation Trust marine campaigner Jon Bryan, Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth and Pulp the Mill.
Group spokeswoman Dr Lisa Searle said the action was to highlight that it was "the wrong mill in the wrong place" and the community would never let it happen.
Mr Cundall said he did not want or intend to be arrested again over the issue but said Tasmanians were disgusted with the miscarriage of justice by the politicians they had voted in.
"We'll never give up, there will be no pulp mill," he said.
Pulp the Mill's Lucy Landon- Lane said yesterday's protest was the third on the site and plans were in the pipeline for a much larger one with all anti-pulp mill groups.
She said it would be bigger than that held to oppose the Franklin Dam and there would also be an international element.
A spokesman from Gunns questioned the total number of protesters but said no one would be prosecuted for trespassing.
"We respect people's right to protest," the spokesman said.
"We've had a year of serious community consultation and letting the people know the facts about it and what's gone on before."
The spokesman said people could access the company's website and see the submissions it had made to the government.
He said the company hoped the federal government would not oppose its environmental impact management plan, with a decision expected by Environment Minister Tony Burke on Thursday. Examiner
6 March 2011 Greens retreat from threats
The Tasmanian Greens yesterday launched a dramatic retreat from threats by Kim Booth to move a no-confidence motion in the Government or block the State Budget over the Gunns pulp mill proposal.
Party leader Nick McKim said the five Greens MPs, including Mr Booth, had attended a scheduled party-room meeting during the day where they had unanimously reaffirmed their commitment not to block supply or move a no-confidence motion in the Government.
As part of the show of unity, Mr McKim said the Greens had agreed to table a Bill to repeal the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007.
Mr McKim's statements were in stark contrast to threats by Mr Booth on Friday, when he said if the Government tried to use any public money to fund the pulp mill, he would withdraw his support for the Labor-Greens alliance.
Mr McKim yesterday said Premier Lara Giddings had been clear that there were no plans to offer further financial support for the pulp mill and he would not speculate on hypothetical scenarios.
"Mr Booth is passionate about refusing to support the Gunns pulp mill, as we all are," he said.
"Mr Booth has made his position clear in the event that Labor offers additional support for the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill and I am relaxed about that.
"The Greens do not seek to muzzle our MPs, or prevent them speaking out on issues they are passionate about."
Mr McKim called on the Liberals to support their Bill to repeal the Pulp Mill Assessment Act and force Gunns back into a public planning process for the pulp mill.
"The Act was a dodgy process to approve an unacceptable project and we will give both Labor and the Liberals the opportunity to correct one of the worst decisions the House, and indeed the Parliament, has made in recent times," he said.
Ms Giddings yesterday said she noted Mr Booth's views but would not deal in hypotheticals in relation to the mill.
"It is important that we take each step as it comes and not get ahead of ourselves regarding this project," she said.
She said the proposed pulp mill was no different to any other major project in Tasmania in terms of possible public infrastructure development that may be required.
Opposition Leader Will Hodgman said Mr McKim would destroy his own party for his own self-interest.
"Kim Booth's position is categorical but it looks like Nick McKim will weakly wimp out and excuse himself from Cabinet when the pulp mill is discussed to protect his ministerial salary," he said. Mercury
5 March 2011 Mill road upgrades still possible
The Tasmanian Government has refused to rule out funding infrastructure upgrades that could benefit the Gunns pulp mill.
It comes as a Greens MP threatened to withdraw support for the government if there is any more public spending to assist the project.
The Greens MP Kim Booth said he would be scrutinising state infrastructure spending to ensure the government doesn't fund projects that benefit the planned Tamar Valley mill.
"Whether they dressed it up and tried to mask it as some sort of public benefit," Mr Booth said.
The Premier Lara Giddings said Gunns has not sought any infrastructure support.
A Labor Member for Bass Michelle O'Byrne said it would be reckless to rule out upgrading roads near the site of the proposed mill.
"Predominantly to ensure that our roads are kept as safe and well maintained as possible," Ms O'Byrne said.
Pulp mill opponents in the Tamar Valley said protests will rival those for the Franklin River if the Federal Environment Minister approves the mill next week. Yahoo Finance
5 March 2011 Wilderness Society doesn't support mill
The Wilderness Society says it remains opposed to Gunns Limited's proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.
Spokesman Vica Bayley said yesterday the society would only support a pulp mill if it was subject to a transparent approval process and had community support.
The Wilderness Society, as a signatory to the Tasmanian Forests Statement of Principles, supports "a pulp mill" but Mr Bayley said this was in no way support for the Tamar Valley proposal.
"The Wilderness Society opposes the Tamar Valley pulp mill because of the mill's likely impact on the marine environment, wood supply, location, fresh water use and the discredited fast-track assessment process," he said.
"If the timber industry and the government want a pulp mill to ensure a sustainable timber industry is viable into the future, then they must bring the community along with them."
A decision on the Gunns pulp mill final environmental approvals was expected on Thursday but the company sought tougher environmental controls and Environment Minister Tony Burke extended the deadline until March 10.
The Tasmanian Greens also remain opposed to the proposal, with cabinet minister and Greens MHA Cassy O'Connor calling on Mr Burke to reject the project and Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth threatening to bring down the minority Labor government if it supports the project.
Gunns has refused to detail the stricter controls it has sought but managing director Greg L'Estrange has said the company wanted to build the mill using the best available technology and with the best environmental controls available.
Industry analyst Robert Eastment said it would most likely be tougher emissions measurements and monitoring.
"It's probably reflective of the new management at Gunns," he said.
But Mr Eastment said it would have little impact on the public's opinions of the mill. Examiner
5 March 2011 A millstone around our neck
Award-winning Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan gives his personal views on the proposed Gunns pulp mill in the Tamar Valley
Gunns, once the billion-dollar super company of Tasmania, is today on its knees and needing its pulp mill to simply stay in existence.
Ironically, Gunns now desperately needs the support of conservationists – the much-vaunted social licence – to get a funding partner that will help finance the mill.
The worst-kept secret of recent months is that Gunns has played those negotiating the Forest Principles on behalf of the environment movement like a cat with a mouse.
The secret deal the conservationists have been offered is staggering: in return for the ending of native forest logging they are to run dead on the pulp mill.
I hope that handful of negotiators representing the many have not, through naivete and out of fear, succumbed to the arguments of Gunns and signed off on such a sickening deal.
They can prove they haven't by stating that they will resume strongly campaigning to stop Gunns' pulp mill and continue for as long as it takes.
I don't belong to the Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania or the ACF, or for that matter any group or party. And here are four reasons why, whatever deal has been struck, I won't be supporting the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill.
1. Gunns and Greg L'Estrange have spent much time telling all who will listen that their mill proposal is better than John Gay's original proposal.
John Gay frequently said similar things.
Perhaps they will only use plantation stock.
John Gay said that too in 2004.
Perhaps the odours and water pollution will be reduced.
But who can say? Even if the Federal Government revises some levels down, are they safe? Is the mill safe?
There is a very simple way Gunns can prove to the Tasmanian people that all that they say is true take their new plans back to the RPDC and have the mill properly assessed.
Let the mill be fully tested in its entirety by an independent and expert process not subject to political interference.
But of course Gunns haven't.
And Gunns won't.
2. Let's presume Greg L'Estrange and the new Gunns are genuine, that they build the new mill with fine hopes and pure hearts.
But on day one, there are problems with water pollution.
In week two poisonous odours settle over Launceston.
In year three depressed market conditions lead Gunns to begin to use a certain percentage of native forest in their feedlot.
And about all this, what can Gunns and the pure-hearted Mr L'Estrange do? Well, little or nothing, because they have a mill to run, money to make, and if remedial works fail they cannot shut the mill down because that would be the end of Gunns.
At which point many Tasmanians might look to their legal rights.
Except under Section 11 of Paul Lennon's Pulp Mill Assessment Act, drafted under the supervision of Gunns lawyers, they have none.
The Gunns mill exists above and beyond the law.
So if Greg L'Estrange is genuine, insist to the Tasmanian Government – whose support for Gunns remains their one and only principle in running Tasmania – that they repeal Section 11.
But of course Gunns haven't.
And Gunns won't.
3. The bad faith displayed by the forest industry over recent months makes it clear that they are not people who can be trusted.
The chainsaw Camorra on big pay packets are still there in key positions in the bureaucracy, the Government and the industry.
Who is to say that if a pulp mill were given away for the native forests that they will keep their word?
Who is to say that they won't be back chainsawing and burning old-growth forests next month or next year, renaming old growth as regrowth, and regrowth as plantations?
That legislation won't be retrospectively altered?
Because without the old rackets, what purpose or power or pay packet do the old men have?
4. Gunns' history in Tasmania is one of recorded corruption, intimidation and coercion.
At various times it has used bribes, lawyers, politicians and media to get its way and its will, which is simply more money.
In consequence of Gunns' determination to get their mill built, Tasmanians from 2004 onwards witnessed a debauching of public life that was sickening and without precedent in our island's history.
Parliament was perverted to the point of near irrelevancy, the public service cowed and neutered, while intimidation, legal thuggery, character assassination, threats, the wrecking of careers, the overriding of processes, and cronyism became the order of day.
To agree to this mill is to say to everyone in Tasmania – every politician, every businessman, every citizen – that in the end might is right, that the only law is the dollar, and that the corruption of our public life is not only acceptable but the only way to get anything done in Tasmania.
If we are ever to escape the hopeless cycle of environmental destruction subsidised by our taxes leading into yet another financial crisis, we need government by politicians engaging with the very real issues that confront Tasmania with a sense of responsibility to the people, rather than servitude to Gunns' bottom line as their only purpose.
Not the cake Lara Giddings, in a Marie Antoinette moment, described Gunns' mill as, but the bread of real government.
Some years ago I spoke at a rally of fifteen thousand Tasmanians opposed to the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill.
I said if it came to it, I would stand between the machinery and the site and go to jail in an attempt to stop the mill.
I then asked those who would stand there with me, who would also go to jail, to raise their hands.
An overwhelming majority raised their hands.
No matter what deal has been done, I haven't changed my mind.
Nor, I strongly suspect, have most of those who raised their hands that day.
The one certainty that Mr L'Estrange, Mr Kelty and any prospective financing partner need to understand is this: whatever the backroom deal, there is no social licence.
What we have instead is a fundamental social betrayal
And if it takes thousands of Tasmanians going to jail to stop the mill, then we will go to jail, and we will keep going to jail until this mill is stopped.
Because only then will this shameful period of our history be ended and Tasmania finally be able to move forward. Mercury
5 March 2011 Pulp mill war erupts
Tamar Valley residents are ready to "man the barricades" to stop the Gunns pulp mill amid claims they have been betrayed by mainstream environmental groups.
Anti-pulp mill group leaders Lucy Landon-Lane and Bob McMahon confirmed yesterday the battlelines were being drawn for a community campaign "bigger than the Franklin Dam".
Protest action may start as soon as this weekend against Gunns' plans for a $2.5 billion mill at Long Reach near Launceston.
The pulp mill's likely start this year also threatens the stability of the State Government.
The Tasmanian Greens delivered an ultimatum yesterday to its Labor minority government partners, threatening to "bring down" the Government over the pulp mill.
Greens MP Kim Booth vowed to withdraw his support for the Labor-Greens government alliance if any public money was used to fund the mill
Mr McMahon, spokesman for Tasmanians against a Pulpmill, said he had seen the "great betrayal" by environmental groups of the Tamar Valley developing over the past three years.
"We will never agree to the Tamar Valley pulp mill, most definitely not," Mr McMahon said.
"We can promise an awful lot of noise and disturbance - even if we have to fight this pulp mill alone, without those environmental groups that have their own national agenda and don't represent the local community at all - we will."
Ms Landon-Lane, spokeswoman for Pulp-the-Mill, said she shared similar concerns about the stances of national environmental bodies.
"I feel those people who have been involved in the [forestry roundtable] talks from environmental groups are naive in trusting Gunns and the forest industry," she said last night.
"They're certainly not speaking on behalf of the people of the Tamar Valley in those talks, when they say this pulp mill is central to any forestry agreement.
"That's why it really feels now the battlelines are coming to a head and people are ready to go to the barricades."
Mr Booth said he would move a no-confidence motion in the Giddings' Labor minority government or block money bills, if either direct or indirect funding for pulp mill-linked finance or infrastructure was included in the June state Budget.
Such a move, if backed by the Liberal Opposition, would bring down the Government.
"I would hope the Government will be thinking very carefully about what it does because I am not pussyfooting around here,' Mr Booth said.
"Surely [Labor] doesn't think enough of this corrupt project that that they would be prepared to risk government over it.
"This is my principles at stake here and I have always fought against corruption and the squandering of public taxes on politicians' pet projects."
The Greens MP for the Bass electorate, where the pulp mill would be located, said he believed the four other Greens members of the Tasmanian Parliament, including Greens leader and government minister Nick McKim, would join his walkout.
Mr McKim could not be contacted yesterday.
But late on Thursday in an interview with the Mercury, Mr McKim repeated his opposition to mill in the Tamar valley.
"The Greens won't support any direct or indirect financial assistance to this pulp mill," Mr McKim said.
"We don't believe this pulp mill should ever go forward."
Premier Lara Giddings will not rule out using public funds to build associated infrastructure such as ports, roads, bridges, wharves and pipelines linked to the project.
The Greens also now appear deeply at odds over the pulp mill with environmental groups such as the Wilderness Society, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Environment Tasmania.
Mr Booth accused the Wilderness Society and Environment Tasmania of deliberately sacrificing the Tamar Valley on the "altar of national politics".
Mr Booth fears the two environmental groups and the Australian Conservation Foundation have "been conned" by Gunns in stating they were prepared to support a more environmentally friendly mill.
Chaos erupted within the Wilderness Society and Environment Tasmania yesterday, after comments from officials from both groups on Thursday suggested they would be happy to accept an environmentally modified mill.
All three organisations are the only environmental groups party to the secretive roundtable forest peace talks between the forest industry and conservationists brokered by former union boss Bill Kelty.
Yesterday the Wilderness Society was back-peddling fast.
A new "clarifying" statement issued by Tasmanian spokesman Vica Bayley yesterday "reiterated" TWS's opposition to the mill, despite earlier comments to the contrary by national campaign director Lyndon Schneiders.
The Federal Government yesterday confirmed the only changes to the pulp mill under consideration had already been publicly announced, relating to less chlorine and full plantation timber use. Mercury
4 March 2011 Greens MP threatens to bring down Government
ELIZABETH JACKSON: A Greens MP in Tasmania is threatening to bring down the Tasmanian Government if it helps Gunns build a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley.
Kim Booth is one of five Greens who are in a power sharing alliance with Labor in Tasmania.
Mr Booth's warning comes a day after the Federal Government delayed its final decision about whether the mill can be approved.
Felicity Ogilvie reports from Hobart.
FELICITY OGILVIE: The suspense is building about the pulp mill. The Federal Government have announced Gunns will have to wait another week to find out if it has final approval.
Gunns has told the stock exchange that two different companies are interested in becoming joint venture partners and the ABC has been told that financiers are simply waiting for both the Federal Government's final tick and the forestry peace plan to be settled before they sign up to the mill.
But Gunns has spent years trying to get finance for the $2.5 billion project.
The project is on hold at a time where the Tasmanian economy can least afford it.
The State Government has millions of dollars worth of debt and is looking to cut thousands of public sector jobs.
The former premier and passionate pulp mill supporter Paul Lennon says the mill would solve the state's financial woes.
PAUL LENNON: If the pulp mill does not proceed in Tasmania in the very near future I and many other people in Tasmania hold grave fears for our economic stability.
And of course what we have now learnt in recent days is the Tasmanian budget is under severe pressure so government stimulus through state sources will not be available to prop up the economy. We will have to look solely to private capital investment.
FELICITY OGILVIE: It's that desperate need for investment that has a Greens MP Kim Booth worried that the Labor Government might decide to help Gunns build the mill.
Labor and the Greens have been in a power sharing alliance since the state election delivered a hung Parliament last year but Kim Booth says if the Government gives Gunns any support he'll quit the alliance.
KIM BOOTH: I would see any further support for this mill by the Government either legislative, underwriting finance or in fact providing any finance for it as gross malfeasance and corruption and would have no hesitation in moving or supporting a no confidence motion on that basis.
FELICITY OGILVIE: The Premier Lara Giddings was unavailable to speak to The World Today but in a statement said there had been no request to underwrite the pulp mill.
Ms Giddings says the State Government is not in the business of underwriting private projects but she adds that she supports Gunns pulp mill and that it would boost the economy.
Kim Booth says there's more than one way of supporting the mill.
KIM BOOTH: There's been serious alarm expressed to me by my constituents that the Government in fact is preparing to legislate possibly to seize private property on behalf of this private project to enable the pipeline to go across their lands or to provide underwriting. That's been something that's been quite broadly spoken of the in the media.
And I think the Government needs to know very clearly where I stand as an elected member and the Member for Bass with regard to our support for the Government.
FELICITY OGILVIE: Now there are some members of the Tamar Valley who are worried that as part of the peace plan to stop the conflict in Tasmania's forest that environmental groups will support the pulp mill in return for the protection of old growth forests and that they've been sold down the river so to speak.
KIM BOOTH: I think that's a reasonable fear. What I am hearing in the background is that there are some sections of the Wilderness Society who would be prepared to sell out and do a deal with the devil on that basis.
We would not support that. I would absolutely advise any environment group who thought that they may need to do a deal like that and sacrifice their principles to keep well away from it because they will lose all credibility as an environment group.
FELICITY OGILVIE: One of the key negotiators in the peace talks is Phil Pullinger from Environment Tasmania. He says there will be no deal with Gunns
PHIL PULLINGER: It's not the job of environment groups, any environment groups won't be, are not in the business of giving ticks of approval or endorsement for any industrial project.
Our job is to campaign as hard as we can on nature conservation and protection and the natural environment.
FELICITY OGILVIE: One key stumbling block for Gunns is securing community support for the project and that's something local anti-mill campaigner Peter Whish-Wilson says the company may never get.
PETER WHISH-WILSON: In the eyes of the community, particularly the Tamar Valley community, this pulp mill is a set of permits and government legislation. That's all it is. If you want to look at what's tangible now it's a set of permits and regulations.
It was rammed through Parliament but totally discluded community input, in fact ignored a significant amount of community input into the RPDC (Resource and Planning Development Commission) process.
So everybody is very suspicious and it would take an enormous amount of bridge building to get the community behind this project.
And the only way around that that I can see is to take it right back to the beginning and start again.
FELICITY OGILVIE: He says while environmental groups have focused on the forests that will feed the mill Mr Whish-Wilson says locals are worried about odour and pollution.
Gunns has told the Federal Government that it now has tighter controls on the bleaching process and will only be using plantation timber.
The Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke says he will make a decision about the mill by next Thursday.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: And from Hobart Felicity Ogilvie with that report. ABC
4 March 2011 Conservation group denies split over mill
The Director of Environment Tasmania has denied there is a split between his organisation and other green groups over the Gunns pulp mill.
Yesterday Environment Tasmania, the Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation welcomed moves by Gunns to make its Federal environment permits more stringent.
But Greens spokeswoman Cassy O'Connor says the party will never support Gunns northern Tasmanian pulp mill, while Greens MP Kim Booth says he will work to bring down the Tasmanian Government if it gives the project any further financial or regulatory support.
Environment Tasmania's Phill Pullinger says his organisation supports moves to improve the mill's Federal permits but there is still concern about the state approval process and community unrest over the project.
"Environment groups are not unequivocally not in the process of giving endorsements to industrial projects," he said.
"Basically we have obviously have had a whole range of grievances with the pulp mill and we've been pushing the Government and the company very hard on getting those issues fixed." ABC
4 March 2011 Green MP threatens Tas Government over mill
Tasmanian Greens MP Kim Booth is threatening to bring down the state's Labor-Green Government over the Gunns pulp mill.
The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke has delayed a decision on whether to issue a final permit needed for the mill until next week.
Bass Greens MHA, Kim Booth says he will withdraw support for the Government if it offers to underwrite the project, or seeks to support it in other ways using public money.
"I would no longer have confidence in the government, I would do everything I could to ensure that the government fell on that basis," he said.
"Were Lara Giddings, for example, as Premier to provide support for the mill either covertly or overtly by legislation or funding for that project then that government would be a Dead Man Walking because ultimately a no-confidence motion ..I would support a no confidence motion in that government because I could no longer support them," he said.
Greens MP and Cabinet Minister, Cassy O'Connor, says the party is united in its opposition to the project, but the Premier has ruled out under-writing the mill, and it's unlikely there will be a vote on more assistance. ABC
4 March 2011 Pulp mill threat by Booth
Rebel Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth says he will campaign to bring down the Giddings government if further support is given to Gunns' $2.3 billion pulp mill.
Mr Booth dubbed the government "a dead man walking" if it ignored his threat, and promised to do whatever it took to get Greens and Liberal support for his actions.
"It means that were my party colleagues of the same view, and the Liberals were of the same view, then the government would fall," Mr Booth said.
"The minute there is any support given to the Gunns project, then my pledge last year to the Governor of stability and confidence will be acted on. The gloves would be off."
In response, Premier Lara Giddings said last night that there were no plans for taxpayers to underwrite the project.
"The onus is now on Gunns Ltd to obtain finance through a joint venture partner, and that is not an issue for government, that is an issue for the companies involved," Ms Giddings said.
"I have been clear that the Tasmanian government has not been approached by Gunns to underwrite the project and I don't expect such a request will be made.
"In saying that, I support the project because I believe it will make an enormous contribution to the Tasmanian economy during difficult economic times. It is also a key part of transitioning the Tasmanian forestry industry out of high conservation value forests and into plantations."
In an interview yesterday with The Examiner, Mr Booth:
•Said the Wilderness Society would damage its brand and lose support if it offered to trade the mill for native forest protection, as some sections of the society want.
•Slammed Ms Giddings for suggesting the pulp mill was now the cake and not just the icing on the cake - "I mean if that's the best she can do for Tasmania, then she ought not be in Parliament, let alone be Premier."
•Said it was improper to seize private property from farmers on behalf of a private company. But he ruled out using his threat of no confidence if Gunns is allowed to use the Dilston bypass easement for its water pipeline. Examiner
4 March 2011 From pulp fiction to fact for Gunns mill
Timber giant Gunns has signalled that it may at last be close to securing the $2.3 billion needed to start construction of its controversial pulp mill project in northern Tasmania.
Two separate announcements heightened speculation that Launceston-based Gunns had secured the partner it needed to partly fund the ambitious venture.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the Government had extended a deadline decision on the environmental impact of the Bell Bay pulp mill project.
It came after Gunns shares were placed in a trading halt pending an announcement on a proposed mill, before confirmation came of the week-long extension.
BusinessDaily has learned that a group of Gunns executives met with government officials in Canberra on Wednesday.
It is understood the officials pitched to have environmental controls for the mill amended to recognise "scientific advances" that have occurred since 2004 when the project was mooted.
Their message was that Gunns would not only be able to meet but exceed the environmental standards the government has set for the 64,000 tonnes of effluent the mill will discharge into Bass Strait each day.
The Canberra meeting this week and yesterday's trading halt came amid speculation that two overseas companies were actively conducting due diligence on the project.
One of those companies is believed to be Finland-based pulp and paper company UPM.
Further interest is understood to have been expressed from China.
Gunns recently embarked on a program to sell its entire native forest operations - harvesting, woodchipping and sawmilling - to retire debt and focus on plantation forestry to attract funding for the mill. Herald Sun
4 March 2011 Secrecy on new mill rules
Gunns yesterday refused to detail the tougher environmental controls it wants applied to its proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.
A federal government decision on the three remaining modules of the $2.3 billion project's environmental impact management plan was due yesterday but Environment Minister Tony Burke extended the deadline until Thursday.
Mr Burke said Gunns representatives contacted his department on Wednesday indicating the company wanted tougher environmental controls than those in the original application.
However, Gunns said it had been talking to the department about the measures for some time.
In other developments yesterday:
•Rebel Greens MHA Kim Booth warned he would campaign to bring down the Labor-Greens state government if it gave further financial support to the pulp mill project.
•In the face of environmental groups' campaign for the introduction of a high- conservation forest logging moratorium this month, a key industry body warned such a step could take 12 months to implement.
Mr Burke said Gunns had sought to have the tougher controls included with the other decisions he had to make on environmental impact management.
"My department needs to assess these proposed variations to the original pulp mill proposal and allow the independent expert group to examine these variations," he said.
In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, Gunns said the more stringent environmental aspects had been proposed after consultation with the community and environmental non- government organisations.
"We want to ensure we build this pulp mill using the best available technology, with the best environmental controls available," managing director Greg L'Estrange said.
"We are pleased that minister Burke and his department are willing to give further consideration to these enhancements."
A Gunns spokesman denied the company had waited until the day before the decision was due to contact the department.
He said the company had been talking to the department for some time in relation to the measures.
He would not detail what the measures were or which groups it had consulted.
The Wilderness Society, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Environment Tasmania welcomed the delay to Mr Burke's decision.
"The current proposal for the pulp mill, put forward by Gunns in 2007, would cause unacceptable damage to the environment, so it is appropriate that the minister give the company longer to improve its proposal," The Wilderness Society's campaign director, Lyndon Schneiders, said. Examiner
4 March 2011 Greens v Greens on Gunns pulp mill
A growing split has emerged between conservationists and the Greens over the planned Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania, after the timber company offered at the 11th hour to redesign the project to win green groups' backing.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke yesterday gave the company a week's extension on final environmental approvals for the mill in the Tamar Valley outside Launceston after Gunns said it would legally bind itself to improved effluent standards and to use only timber from plantations.
These are key demands of The Wilderness Society and other environment groups, whose support Gunns needs if it is to obtain the Forest Stewardship Council certification demanded by investors.
In return for the green groups' endorsement of the mill and government compensation, Gunns is willing to surrender its contract rights to 220,000 cubic metres of native forest sawlogs a year.
This would underwrite a final peace deal in Tasmania's forests, ending 30 years of conflict, by freeing up enough native timber to sustain the existing sawmills while protecting an extra 600,000ha of forests.
The federally appointed forest peace broker, former national union leader Bill Kelty, is seeking to identify within the next week the areas of agreement between the two sides and any remaining barriers to a settlement in a bid to reach a final deal.
But green groups yesterday differed markedly to the Greens party in their response to the Gunns announcement.
TWS, Environment Tasmania and the Australian Conservation Foundation welcomed the Gunns pledge to improve effluent standards and promised to support them if the details released next week matched the commitment.
But Greens MPs, who share government with Labor in Tasmania, insisted Gunns could be not be trusted and stood by their trenchant opposition to the pulp mill unless it was moved from the Tamar, and recycled, rather than released, its liquid waste.
In the Tamar, some residents were concerned the environment groups were preparing to "sell us down the river".
"It looks as though somebody wants to save some high conservation value forests, but is sacrificing the Tamar Valley to get them," said mill opponent Peter Cundall. The celebrity gardener, a former ABC personality, said it was obvious Gunns had failed to meet federal standards but had been given a chance by Mr Burke to upgrade to win approval.
TWS national campaign director Lyndon Schneiders told The Australian he was happy to defy the Greens in backing a mill, but only if it ticked three basic requirements - 100 per cent plantation timber, cleaner effluent and community support.
"I've got no problem having debates and disagreements with the Greens," Mr Schneiders said.
"But ... the Greens are right to point out that the company and the Tasmanian government do not have the trust of the Tasmanian community."
Phill Pullinger, of Environment Tasmania, said his organisation would not shy away from acknowledging any substantial improvements by Gunns, if borne out by the release of details.
"It is an important precedent for a company to seek tougher environmental controls for its own project, showing the company is heading in a positive direction," he said. "If we have pushed for a range of environmental problems with the mill to be fixed and they are fixed, then we have to, and we will, acknowledge that."
Dr Pullinger called on all three political parties, including the Greens, to put politics aside in the interests of achieving a historic agreement that could transform Tasmania.
"To get holistic lasting solution to this conflict you need to have a solution that sticks," he said.
"To have that, you need the support of environment groups, unions, timber industry bodies, the broader community and all three political parties.
"That's what we want to see. In past attempts to resolve this, it has become a polarised political issue where parties try to play the community off against each other.
"For the future of this state we are really pushing . . . all political parties to get in behind a solution."
But the Greens maintained their rage, with Tasmanian senator Christine Milne accusing Gunns of having delayed the process for years.
"It is a corrupted mill," she told the Senate. "It does not have a social licence to operate and never will have, because the community does not want it there and does not trust this company, having been told so many lies over a long period about what this company will do."
Senator Milne said it was "unbelievable" that Mr Burke would take the company at its word, and demanded the government publish all Gunns' material.
"The community is being shut out, and Gunns is being given the benefit of the doubt again, consistent with its delay, delay, delay, undermining of the conditions, and pulling out of the environment assessment processes," she said.
"This mill will not proceed - regardless of what the minister is saying about this."
The Greens at state level remain trenchantly opposed to the mill, with leader Nick McKim warning that the push to include the project in the forest agreement was likely to sink the process.
Gunns has promised elemental chlorine-free light technology to reduce chlorine in the mill effluent by 40 per cent, which will to some extent alleviate environmental concerns about the impact of the release of 64,000 tonnes a day into Bass Strait.
However, the Greens and some groups want Gunns to go further in shifting to total chlorine-free or closed-loop technology.
Whether the environmental non-government organisations accept ECF-light may depend on what detailed marine dispersal modelling shows as the likely marine impact of the process.
Mr Schneiders agreed the most intractable problem was the loss of faith in Gunns and the state government as a result of the 2007 fast-tracking of the pulp mill outside the state planning process, with no public hearings.
The Lennon Labor government engineered the fast-track after secretly learning that the planning body had declared the project "critically non-compliant".
However, The Australian has learned that in meetings with Gunns, mill opponents have suggested ways of rebuilding community trust, including holding public hearings on areas of concern and agreeing to a strong independent monitoring body to track mill operations.
Gunns chief executive Greg L'Estrange said the new and more stringent environmental measures had been proposed by the company following consultation with community and environmental NGOs. Australian
3 March 2011 Burke beats Gunns out of the blocks
Woodchipped and dented, Gunns discovered yesterday that government can sometimes make it awfully hard for business to stick to the rules that Parliament sets.
Two years ago the then environment minister, Peter Garrett, set yesterday as the final decision day on approvals for Gunns' much-delayed $2.2 billion Bell Bay pulp mill. Gunns went to Garrett's successor, Tony Burke, on Tuesday to ask for some late changes (more on that later).
At 12.45pm yesterday the ASX agreed to a request from Gunns for a trading halt until Burke announced his decision.
The only problem, unbeknown to Gunns, was that Burke's office had emailed media releases revealing his thoughts almost 10 minutes earlier. That produced the delightful outcome that a wire story from Canberra on Burke's statement was published before a report that trading in Gunns' shares had been halted.
Perhaps Burke's colleague, the Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten, could have a word with him about how the Corporations Act aims to work in relation to continuous disclosure and keeping the market fully informed.
Gunns could have called a trading halt in the morning in anticipation of Burke, but anyone who has ever dealt with governments and decision dates knows it is a lottery whether a deadline will be kept.
It was not until after 3pm that Gunns released its own statement, confirming that the minister had opted for a one-week extension to the approvals process, and trading in the stock resumed.
Burke granted the extension after Gunns asked him to treat it mean; the company wanted tighter environmental controls than those in its original application.
That might sound odd from a company that has been in constant conflict with environmentalists for close to a decade, but the request apparently reflected the fact that one side-benefit of all the years of delays and controversy has been that the technology has improved, allowing Gunns to use fewer nasties like chlorine in making the pulp.
Gunns' request to Burke was as much a notional olive branch to the Greens as it was pragmatism - suggesting the psychology has changed in the boardroom since John Gay gave up being executive chairman and the chief executive Greg L'Estrange spread his wings. Brisbane Times
3 March 2011 Gunns wants 'tougher controls': decision delayed
Gunns has requested more stringent environmental controls be incorporated in Mr Burke's decision on the pulp mill.
The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has extended the deadline making a decision on the proposed Tasmanian pulp mill by another week.
The decision was due to come today.
Mr Burke says the Gunns company contacted his department yesterday asking for tougher environmental controls.
He says another week is needed to examine the changes the company has requested.
The Chief Executive of Tasmania's Forest Industries Association, Terry Edwards says he is confident the pulp mill will meet the Federal guidelines.
"One more tiny step in a seven year sojourn," he said.
"But one can only hope that we are inching ever closer to the approval and final implementation of this project for Tasmania."
Gunns has called a trading halt on the stock exchange. ABC
3 March 2011 Promise of greener hue to pulp mill at final hour
Gunns has moved to 'green up' its Tamar Valley pulp mill proposal amid warnings against entwining the project with Tasmania's wavering forests peace deal.
Yesterday, the federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, extended by a week his final decision on approvals for the $2.2 billion project, after being told Gunns was seeking tougher regulations.
Gunns' managing director, Greg L'Estrange, said the company was proposing more stringent rules after consulting community and environmental groups, telling them the mill would use a bleaching process requiring 40 per cent less chlorine than first planned.
Mr Burke said Gunns had sought the incorporation of stricter controls, along with other decisions he is to make on the environmental impact management plan.
'My department needs to assess these proposed variations to the original pulp mill proposal and allow the independent expert group to examine these variations,' the minister said.
Among the critical decisions the government must make is a sign-off on modelling of mill effluent dispersal in Bass Strait.
At its annual general meeting in November, Gunns told shareholders that modelling work showed the mill would have no impact on marine ecosystems, but Environment Tasmania said it was still concerned about the effect of up to 51 gigalitres a year of industrial effluent being discharged into the sea.
Mr Burke's decision will coincide with next week's planned release of an interim report, by the facilitator of the peace talks, Bill Kelty, on progress towards a resolution of the state's native forest logging conflict.
An initial statement of principles agreed by industry and green groups last year only gave backing to 'a pulp mill' for the state. The Tasmanian Greens leader, Nick McKim, warned this week that further agreement could be jeopardised by Labor Party moves to specifically include Gunns' project in a final deal. 'That pulp mill has poisoned political debate in Tasmania for many, many years, and now, if the Labor Party gets its way, it may cost Tasmania the chance to end the forests dispute that has divided our state,' he said.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has declined to distance the government from assistance for the mill. The Tasmanian Premier, Lara Giddings, has also refused to rule out support for the mill.
In the peace talks, Mr Kelty is balancing pressing competing demands - for a moratorium on logging in high conservation value state-owned forests, and a guarantee of continuing saw-log wood supplies.
The potential protection of up to 600,000 hectares of old-growth forest and the provision of a wood supply are reliant on Gunns' decision to move out of native forest logging. Brisbane Times
3 March 2011 Gunns gets another week on pulp mill verdict
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has extended the deadline decision on the impact of Gunns' proposed pulp mill at Bell Bay, Tasmania, for another week.
Mr Burke said representatives from Gunns contacted his department yesterday indicating that the company was seeking tougher environmental controls than contained in the original application.
Gunns shares entered a trading halt at 53.5 cents, down 1 cent for the day.
"The company further sought that these more stringent environmental controls be incorporated with the other decisions I am to make on the environmental impact management plan," Mr Burke said in a statement today.
"My department needs to assess these proposed variations to the original pulp mill proposal and allow the Independent Expert Group to examine these variations."
The original deadline set by former environment minster Peter Garrett in January 2009 was March 3.
"I am extending that deadline for a further week until March 10," Mr Burke said.
"I expect these processes will be complete and I will be in a position to consider updated advice from my department next week."
Gunns asked for the halt in trading for its shares pending the pulp mill announcement.
Its shares are off 14 per cent in 2011 compared with a 1 per cent gain for the ASX200 benchmark index. Business Day
3 March 2011 Burke rules on pulp mill permit today
Gunns will find out today - a day earlier than expected - whether it will get its last pulp mill permit.
A spokeswoman for federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said last night that Mr Burke would make an announcement today on the success of the company's last environmental permit application.
The decision, which represents the last legal barrier in the way of a start on the proposed $2.3 billion mill, had been expected tomorrow.
Gunns was required to collect more than 12 months worth of data to analyse from Bass Strait to determine whether effluent from the proposed Bell Bay pulp mill would have a detrimental effect on marine life.
The company has worked closely with federal Environment Department officers to meet the requirements of the permit.
Gunns pulp mill spokesman Calton Frame told the company's annual meeting before Christmas that it had cost more than $4 million and an extra couple of years to secure the information for the marine study.
A West Australian company was commissioned to do the work.
Mr Frame said Gunns was confident that the study would confirm there would be no detrimental impact on the marine environment.
It would release the full report once the permit was granted.
Environment Tasmania, which represents a range of state environmental groups, said this week that it believed its research showed that the pulp mill posed potentially alarming risks to coastal and marine values.
Environment Tasmania coasts co-ordinator Thomas Moore said that any development in the region had to be benign to the environment, other industry, coastal amenity and human health. Examiner
3 March 2011 Anti-corruption complaints a stunt: Lennon
Former premier Paul Lennon has dismissed as a publicity stunt complaints made to a new anti- corruption watchdog over his handling of the Gunns pulp mill project.
Friends of the Tamar Valley have reportedly made five complaints to the Integrity Commission alleging that Mr Lennon and other senior officials acted improperly when they fast- tracked the approval of the mill.
Calls to the group yesterday for comment were unsuccessful and details of complaints are being kept confidential.
Mr Lennon said the commission was being "used for political purposes" in a bid to generate publicity ahead of a federal government decision on the $2.3 billion Tamar mill.
"They didn't like the legislation then and they don't like it now," he said.
"All they're doing now is embroiling the commission into their opposition."
Environment Minister Tony Burke is expected to announce whether the proposed mill has won federal approval under national environmental laws today.
Mr Lennon was confident that the pulp mill would be approved and stood by his actions to encourage its development.
"I acted in the best interests of Tasmania," he said. "If we had a pulp mill now, then Tasmania wouldn't be under the severe economic pressure that it is now."
He said he would co-operate with any investigation.
The Integrity Commission has received 88 complaints since it was set up in October. Not all complaints will be investigated. Examiner
2 March 2011 Burke Must Release Gunns Pulp Mill Data - Greens
Minister Burke is denying the Tasmanian public natural justice by refusing to release critical data about the pollution of Bass Strait before making his decision on the adequacy of Gunns hydrodynamic modelling and management plan, the Australian Greens said today.
"It is not good enough to say that it is up to Gunns to release the information. The community deserves the right to evaluate the accuracy of Gunns claims before the Minister makes his decision," said Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne.
"Tasmanians remember that former Minister Garrett rejected the original Gunns hydrodynamic modelling and assessment of the proposed pulp mill's impacts on the Commonwealth marine environment because the information was not sufficient for him to be able to understand the full impacts on Commonwealth waters.
"Minister Garrett said at the time he could not have absolute confidence in the proposed management response strategies to protect the marine environment.
"How can the public have faith in Minister Burke's decision when he has not released the information now submitted by Gunns, which last time was found to be so wanting?
"It is hard to escape the conclusion that neither the Minister nor Gunns want scrutiny of the data before the decision is taken.
"Why didn't the Minister talk to the 7000 workers employed in the Bass Strait fishing industry worth $300 million a year to the Tasmanian economy?
"Minister Burke should give the community the chance to comment before he makes a final decision.
"Thankfully, unlike the closely guarded assessment in the Minister's office, Environment Tasmania has already released an independent impact statement that found up to 51 gigalitres of industrial effluent will be released from the Mill every year.
"To give this some perspective, Sydney Harbour has a volume of just ten times that amount. This equates to a massive amount of industrial effluent from one factory that poses too great a risk for the Tamar environment and economy." Greens