Letter 11 Open letter to Legislative Councillors of Tasmania

Dear Legislative Councillors, Summary of issues arising from failure of good governance and the continuing threats to communities from the pulp mill proposal by Gunns. A CRISIS OF GOVERNANCE There is a developing crisis of confidence in our system of government that has arisen from the numerous and repeated breaches of public trust created during the partial process for assessing the proposal for a Tamar valley pulp mill. The process has ignored or removed the needs of communities and businesses from consideration while supporting the project proponent with subsidies, special government ‘task force’ actions, taxpayer funded marketing and favoured legal treatment. Risks to the community have been ignored, costs to Tasmania have not been calculated and the needs of existing business investors have been left from consideration. We believe that unless steps are taken immediately to reverse the current trend that supports conflicts of interest and ignores the legitimate needs of taxpayers and businesses, this issue could embed a major schism into the communities of Tasmania and precipitate a crisis of confidence in our system of government. The government’s actions have: 1. discriminated against Tasmanians living in the area affected by the mill’s activities, by not listening to, acknowledging or addressing their real concerns. 2. treated Tasmanians unequally under the law by placing one group in a privileged position that largely removes their responsibilities to all others. 3. breached the UN Declaration of Human Rights that requires that all citizens have equal access to the public services (Article 21) and makes us unequal before the law (Article 7). These outcomes are loathsome and offensive to all of the people affected by the government’s actions and they serve to deny the notion of a fair and responsible government. The community expects: 1. that their needs will be understood and actively considered; 2. the support of the public services (paid by taxes) to recognise and articulate legitimate concerns of citizens; 3. that differences between independent expert views and those of the proponent would be openly and honestly addressed; 4. the levels of protection for impacted communities and industries would be described in substantial detail eg. shut down clauses, compensation agreements, etc; 5. that there would exist independent monitoring and appeal mechanisms to help avoid errors and risks. As it stands, none of this is apparent. In fact our elected state representatives have forced members of the community to represent themselves to the RPDC at their own cost, then ignored the results of the community’s efforts by privatising the decision without due consideration of the public’s requirements. They have also modified the laws to make maximum accommodation to the mill proponent while appearing to close off any avenues for public appeal in the event of damages. A modern pulp mill lasts 100 years. The future of everyone in Northern Tasmania is now in the hands of a pulp mill supplier (Sweco Pic) that is associated with Poyry, Andritz and other companies likely to gain direct financial benefit from an approval - a clear conflict of interest. Sweco Pic has no information about the population, the industries or the sensitivities of the region; they cannot be held accountable in any way for their recommendation and the residents and businesses in the area will have no legal recourse because the law has been changed to preclude effective legal challenges against any approval for the project. THREATS TO COMMUNITIES As a result of the failure of good governance a number of serious specific threats to business and the community remain. Locating the pulp mill in the same air-shed as 100,000 people engaged in mixed sensitive industries, creates significant health and business hazards. The processes to be used by the mill have been described as creating excessive dioxins (Dr Raverty, pulp and paper expert). The AMA has advised of serious health concerns for those living and working in the area. The guidelines do not protect the community eg. Section D.5.15 allows the pulp mill to emit odours into the Tamar valley for 2 years before any investigative action is taken by an independent body. The original economic case for the mill recognises no opportunity costs or adverse impacts to Tasmania with the proposal. There has been no description of the means by which communities and businesses will be protected and, according to legal experts, the mill project may have extra-ordinary legal protection from legal action that could leave Tasmanians with no recourse against damages. The State government has effectively privatised the state assessment to Sweco Pic. Whilst draft pulp mill permit conditions now being written by government agencies will be examined by the proponent in coming months, details will remain hidden from the Parliament and public till September 2007. The issue now officially awaits a decision by Sweco Pic regarding approval, prior to a discussion in the lower House about giving a permit to the mill operators. We trust that the legislative Council will not ignore the legitimate needs of taxpayers and businesses, and that it will act decisively to avoid a crisis of confidence in our system of government by voting down the Pulp Mill Assessment Bill. TAP