Media stories for April 09

28 April New planning laws would crush ordinary Tasmanians' rights and would help the State Government ram through unpopular developments including the pulp mill pipeline, the Hobart City Council said. The proposed "power grab" legislation came under fire from aldermen, united in growing anger at the State Government over what they called politically expedient reforms. The Mercury

24 April The Beluga Finesse entered the Tamar River yesterday carrying machinery and parts for Gunns' $2.2 billion pulp mill. Wilderness Society spokeswoman Ruth Groom said "That stuff is going to be sitting on the wharf rusting for the next decade if we have anything to do with it." While Gunns is yet to secure a joint financial backer for the mill, business commentator Robert Gottliebsen has cited "European reports" indicating that two major pulp makers are keen to enter a joint venture with Gunns to build the mill. The Mercury

23 April A cargo ship, the Beluga Finesse, docked at the Bell Bay port and is believed to be carrying large turbine parts from China for Gunns' pulp mill's power generator (ordered up to 2 years ago). Mill opponents staged a protest at George Town, and a vocal group of protesters then greeted the ship as it docked. The Forest Industries Association's Julian Amos says it shows the project is moving ahead. He says most Tasmanians support the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill. The Greens leader Nick McKim says the Gunns mill doesn't have a social licence, it doesn't have the support of the community and it just shouldn't be built," he said. ABC

22 April Gunns has postponed until June any announcement on a potential joint-venture partner for its proposed pulp mill. In February, John Gay said Gunns expected to make an announcement by the end of this month. Financial analyst Tom Ellison said the statement showed Gunns was no closer to building the mill than it was three years ago. "Every two months like clockwork they are saying they are close to getting a joint-venture partner," he said. "But in their ASX release they have not mentioned finance and they would need a partner in place before they can even consider discussions about finance." The Mercury

21 April Gunns says it has `substantially progressed its negotiations' with potential joint venture equity partners for the finance of its proposed pulp mill project. In statement to the Australian Stock Exchange the company said a process was being conducted to select a partner to negotiate a joint venture agreement. The Examiner

19 April The fight against Gunns' proposed $2.2 billion pulp mill moved to the actual site at Bell Bay for the first time yesterday. About 30 protesters were ferried across the Tamar River from a West Tamar vineyard and unfurled a 60m-long No Pulp Mill banner on the site of a proposed new wharf. With two weeks until the Windermere Legislative Council election, only two of the five candidates, Ivan Dean and Kathryn Hay, support the project. The Examiner

17 April Construction of the controversial Tamar Valley pulp mill will begin by December, Gunns boss John Gay vows. Mr Gay said "everything was going to plan". Resources Minister David Llewellyn said "We are very pleased those positive moves are there; this Government is highly supportive of the pulp mill and we want it to go ahead," he said. In other good news for Gunns, it is estimated the cost of the mill has fallen from $2.2 billion to $1.5 billion during the past year because of a plunge in the price of steel, labour and finance. TAP "have been warning for two years that mismanagement by Gunns and the State Government of this process would open us up to foreign companies, most likely the Chinese, gaining unacceptable control over Tasmania's precious resources," TAP spokesman Bob McMahon said. The Mercury

16 April Gunns says it will strike a deal with a joint venture partner for its $2.2 billion Tasmanian pulp mill by the end of June and begin construction within nine months. Potential partner, Sodra has not responded to repeated requests for comment, Stora Enso late last year ruled out any involvement, and Nine Dragons has also played down its interest. Pulp mill opponents warned that they were ready to resume hostilities in the long-running battle over the project, which was fast-tracked by state parliament despite being "critically non-compliant" with planning requirements. Sydney businessman and mill opponent Geoffrey Cousins said: "If anyone thinks we've all gone to sleep or that people will accept it as inevitable, that is not the case. Any potential joint venture partner should be in no doubt that the majority of the public is opposed to this project. Tasmanian Times

16 April The pulp mill site is already exceeding sulphur-odour guidelines that would require Gunns to investigate the source. "The question as to whether the results mean the trigger level will be revised is a matter that we will consider after more baseline data is collected," Mr Jones said. The Mercury

16 April Equipment for Gunns $2.2 billion pulp mill has started arriving at Bell Bay as an announcement on a joint venture partner for the controversial project looms at the end of April. Gunns said the project would create 2000 new jobs during a two-year construction period and 1600 new jobs during operation. The Examiner

11 April One of Australia's most divisive development projects, Gunns Ltd's $2.2 billion Bell Bay pulp mill in Tasmania, will be under construction by September if the company secures backing from predominantly offshore investors. That is looking increasingly likely as the first shoots of recovery appear in capital markets. Equity prices are rising, debt funding is becoming obtainable and an appetite for risk is reappearing. Speculation has focused on the Scandinavian forestry firms Sodra and Stora Enso, which avoided comment this week. There has also been speculation that Gunns may have found a Chinese partner. The Sydney Morning Herald

10 April Gunns will close its timber mills and even its head office for ten days over Easter to help cut costs. The shutdowns are part of a national agreement between forestry companies, timber contractors and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union to prevent a glut of timber or woodchips. Yahoo Finance

9 April The Federal Court has dismissed a legal challenge to the Federal Government's approval for Gunns to build a pulp mill. Outside court, Vanessa Bleyer from the group Lawyers For Forests said the case was dismissed on legal technical grounds rather than on its merits. "What this shows is that what is supposed to be Australia's premier piece of environment protection legislation does not do what it ought to do," Ms Bleyer said. Ms Bleyer said the lawyers would consider whether there were grounds to appeal. The Age

8 April Former Tasmanian premier Paul Lennon faces an investigation into evidence he lied when he said he did not have secret knowledge that Gunns intended to withdraw its pulp mill from the planning process. A state parliamentary committee yesterday found Mr Lennon had given evidence "inconsistent with a number of witnesses" about whether he had inside knowledge ahead of Gunns quitting the planning system. In dramatic findings, the committee recommended a parliamentary privileges committee hire a lawyer to gather evidence to help judge whether Mr Lennon had committed contempt of parliament. It also recommended a judicial inquiry into the conduct of senior bureaucrats and vowed to refer evidence about Gunns's conduct to market regulators. The Australian

 2 April The Hobart Supreme Court has heard that three Tamar Valley residents were told they could be imprisoned for contempt of Parliament after seeking a statement of reasons on the controversial Gunns pulp mill. Crown counsel Paul Turner is arguing that section 11 of the Pulp Mill Assessment Act - which restricts the right of any legal action in the wake of Parliament's decision to approve state regulations on the mill - prevents the court from issuing an order for the release of the statement. Justice Peter Evans has reserved his decision. The Examiner

2 April Pulp mill case in the Supreme Court begins. Three Tamar Valley residents are seeking more information on how the pulp mill was approved. The Government has refused to detail the basis for decisions made under the Pulp Mill Assessment Act, based on legislation which prevents any legal challenge to the mill's approval, construction or operation. The Mercury