Letter 2 Reply to Dept Economic Development's refusal to grant funding

To Secretary
Mr Norm McIlfatrick
Department of Economic Development
GPO Box 646
Hobart TAS 7001

From Mr Robert McMahon
Chairman of TAP Inc.
13 September 2006

Dear Mr McIlfatrick

We are very disappointed with your letter of 5 September 2006 declining our proposal for funding ($143 000) to build the capacity of the community to adequately respond to the Gunns draft integrated impact assessment report.

Your letter seems to indicate a misunderstanding of the essential purpose of our proposal.

Your paragraph 2 confuses the coordination role of the RPDC with a fundamentally different coordination role to be played by TAP, on behalf of multiple members of the community. Our plan involves coordinating a range of independent views and assembling critical evidence to put before the public to build their capacity to meaningfully respond to Gunns IIS and contribute to RPDC deliberations.

We are glad that you believe that the process is very rigorous and robust (your paragraph 3). However, an integral part of that process is the role of the public, as you point out in paragraph 5. It is hardly fair to invite submissions from the public but then for your Department to not provide any support for us to respond to such a complex and important proposal.

Individuals, community groups and small businesses need help to understand the relevant parts of the 7500 pages and then make submissions to the RPDC. We are severely handicapped in making a credible response because of information overload and a very short time available to both extract data relevant to our businesses and homes, and then to assess the claimed impacts on us of the pulp mill proposal. So we are very disappointed with your misinterpretation (paragraph 8) of our purpose as simply “undertaking an environmental assessment”.

Your claim (paragraph 7) that the issue of resource management (wood supply) is handled under the RFA and Forest Practices Act is tenuous at best. Wood supply is integral to the pulp mill proposal but I see no evidence that the public submissions are being sought on impacts of a greatly expanded wood supply. Because plantation and other forestry activities can damage or replace existing agricultural activity, the impacts of the supply side of the proposal appear profound. Our proposal will facilitate a considered response from the community and businesses and fill this yawning gap in the scope of the discussion.

Finally, you say (paragraph 7) that it is not within the scope of your department’s responsibility to fund independent community organisations. However, your own Mission Statement calls on you to advance the sustainable development of Tasmania by increasing the capacity of individuals, enterprises and communities to contribute to the Tasmanian economy. Our members, who include farmers, vineyard owners and tourism operators, would like to contribute to Tasmania’s sustainable development but feel that this contribution is under serious threat.

Nor is your refusal to fund our study consistent with the aims of the Tasmanian Development Act 1983 to encourage and promote the balanced economic development of Tasmania, and the RPDC legislative framework to encourage public involvement in resource management and planning.

TAP is being inundated with issues of concern and requests for help and information from individuals, community groups and small businesses. For example, will the air emissions affect my asthma? Will there be a fall in clientele at my tourism venture because of more log trucks? Should I buy a small business in Tasmania or elsewhere? How will the new plantations supplying the mill affect the availability of water for my farm? Should I think about selling my house?

Members of the public are deeply worried by the potential impacts of the mill and resource supply. They are highly sceptical of claims made by the proponent who understandably, has a clear and immediate conflict of interest. They are greatly frustrated at not being able to access meaningful information and are very angry that the whole process is not a level playing field. Our proposal is aimed at redressing these issues and assisting the RPDC in its deliberations.

We are already incurring significant expense that are being paid for by donations from individuals and raffles. Because of the severe shortage of funding, we will be seeking an extension to the deadline for submissions to the RPDC.

Given the even shorter time available and immense importance of the task, we ask you to immediately re-evaluate your position and commit funding to this proposal.

We look forward to your favourable response.

Yours sincerely

Mr Robert McMahon
On behalf of TAP Inc. membership

Cc Mr Julian Green, Executive Commissioner RPDC
GPO Box 1691, Hobart, TAS 7001