Media stories November 09

23 November More than half the group of more than 100 [pulp mill] protesters stood their ground when police attempted to move them from the steps to the lawns of Parliament House for their peaceful protest late last week. Inspector Glen Woolley said yesterday he hadn't seen a group of people arrested as big as the one that took over the steps of Parliament House last Thursday. The individuals were members of the Tamar Valley-based Pulp the Mill group who are committed to civil disobedience as a way to protest against the proposed Gunns $2.5 billion pulp mill at Bell Bay. Examiner

21 November Gunns will take control of Great Southern Ltd's expansive plantation resource after an implementation agreement was signed yesterday. Gunns said it expected to harvest 540,000 green metric tonnes of pulpwood from the schemes in 2010 and that figure would grow to 2.8 million green metric tonnes in 2017. "The estate includes approximately 42,000 hectares of plantation in the Green Triangle region which is expected to generate an annual wood flow of approximately 100,000 to 1million GMT through the Portland loading facility, currently under development by Gunns," the ASX release said. Industry analysts have said the purchase of the Great Southern plantations would provide synergies with Gunns' planned $2.5 billion Bell Bay pulp mill, which the company wants to run on plantation timber in a bid to secure a funding deal with Swedish giant Sodra. Examiner

17 November Analysis by GLgroup. Erecting a world class pulp mill is a major "value-added" project that will greatly increase revenue in years to come. Eventually the pulp mill may provide the fiber for a new paper machine to produce UFS papers for the growing Australian market. India will no doubt be the major market area. Environmentalists have been particularly aggressive in their opposition siting damage to old growth forests, water and air purity and harm to indigenous animal population. Gunns has been successful in proving to the Gov't that these fears are unfounded, or, if present, could be controlled. The threat to old growth forests was shown to be invalid because the eucalyptus plantations have been cultivated for the past 30 years. Expected startup will be sometime in 2012.

19 November Peter Cundall has been arrested outside Tasmania's Parliament House in Hobart. The ABC presenter was with a protest group today calling for a royal commission into the approval of Gunns Ltd's proposed Bell Bay pulp mill in the state's north. He and others refused a police direction to move away from the steps of Parliament House and was arrested and taken into custody. Mr Cundall said he had never been arrested before and looked nervous before settling into the role as he walked away with a police officer to a waiting bus to the cheers of the mostly middle-aged-plus crowd of about 40 fellow protesters. Before his arrest, Mr Cundall, who lives near the pulp mill site in the Tamar Valley, said its construction would cause economic, environmental, 'and above all democratic' damage to the area. I'm here because I'm opposed to the corrupt mechanisms, and it was corrupt, that [Tasmania's] Pulp Mill Assessment Act went through Parliament,' he told reporters. 'It was a terrible thing that basically a proponent of the mill can actually make major donations to a party or both parties, and help to actually write the legislation, and it is then passed through Parliament, with the members of Parliament not allowed to oppose it or amend it. 'That to my mind is corruption and that's why I'm here and that's why I'm going to stay here.' Sydney Morning Herald

12 November Gunns claims to be close to reaching key environmental agreements with a Swedish pulp and paper giant [Sodra] to build its divisive Tasmanian mill. With $200 million already spent, according to company records, land-clearing at the Tamar valley site is the only evidence of progress towards a mill, which was originally scheduled to be operating by now. First estimated to cost about $1.5 billion, it was now likely to be about $2.5 billion, Gunns chairman John Gay told the meeting. A spokesman for Gunns later said this included $300 million in financial costs, and its capital cost stood at $2.2 billion. Mr Gay said Sodra was one of several parties who might contribute 40 per cent of the project's equity, but he declined to name others, indicating talks with the Swedish company were well advanced. Sodra, a co-operative of Swedish forest owners, set three standards for its involvement. The timber would have to be certified by the rigorous Forest Stewardship Council, with all of it to come from plantations, and the mill would need to use an environmentally friendly chlorine-free bleaching process. Sodra's tight demands also include local community support, and a ban on converting native forest to plantation. Age

11 November Gunns has revealed another huge cost blowout for its pulp mill project. At the annual general meeting in Launceston, the Gunns chairman John Gay said the cost of the project had jumped to $2.5 billion. The original estimate was for $1.5 billion. But the company told shareholders that it remained confident it would find a joint venture partner to help fund the pulp mill - despite the current global financial downturn. A group of about 50 protestors gave Gunns shareholders a noisy welcome to the AGM. Another six scaled a 45 metre grain silo across the road to drop a banner. It read "Gunns pulp mill corruption" and "No jobs on a dead island". A spokesman for the group Rory Cadman says the six abseilers were arrested and charged with trespass. Inside the AGM the company insisted the planned pulp mill in the Tamar Valley will go ahead but it refused to set a time-frame. In 2007 the Tasmanian Government fast tracked the approval process for the mill after Gunns complained the delay was costing it $1 million a day. Today Gunns chairman John Gay told shareholders that the expected cost of the pulp mill is now $2.5 billion. But Gunns still hasn't found an investor to help fund the project. Judith King [resident] asked if the company would engage more with community concerns. "They haven't. They're not living with us. They're trying to impose their will on us and the community is very angry with them. It's the wrong mill, it's in the wrong place, it's the wrong proponent and we'll never allow it to be built here." ABC

10 November Gunns -- desperate to lure investors to its proposed $2 billion pulp mill -- has begun secretly courting conservationists, holding talks with Greens leader Bob Brown and The Wilderness Society. Senator Brown met Gunns chairman John Gay at the Launceston Country Club and Casino several months ago, as the company sought to know what it would take to blunt the Greens' staunch opposition to the mill. The Australian understands Mr Gay wanted to know what it would take for the Greens either to back the mill or at least to adopt a less vehement stance in opposition. Movement by Senator Brown on the project would sway other conservationists, and Gunns strategists feel that, as mill opponents are scaring off investors at a crucial stage in negotiations and local opinion is divided, it is logical to engage their critics. It is understood the conversation became less cosy as it drew on and as Senator Brown insisted the Tamar Valley, with its burgeoning food and wine industries and existing air-pollution problem, was not an acceptable site for a pulp mill. Mr Gay, a man known for straight talk and occasionally shooting from the hip, is understood to have thundered that he would see "his" mill built, come what may and that it was not up to others to dictate its design and location. Australian

6 November Debate was cut short in Parliament over an amendment to Tasmania's pulp mill legislation designed to cover land use permits, which ran out two months ago. Greens leader Nick McKim reacted angrily to Planning Minister David Llewellyn's move to declare the amendment an "urgent bill" after three hours - gagging any further debate. There were scenes reminiscent of two years ago when the pulp mill bill itself was rushed through late at night by then premier Paul Lennon. "You've done it again - you have guillotined debate, you are collaborating to get this through, you are riding roughshod over democracy in this state," Mr McKim shouted across the chamber at Mr Llewellyn. Mr Llewellyn said that [Solicitor- General's legal] advice was that the matter could be clarified either by amending the bill or by arguing it in court. He also refused give an opinion on whether Gunns was acting illegally if it had people working at the Bell Bay site after the original land use permits lapsed at the end of August. Examiner

5 November Work is continuing at the Gunns Pulp Mill site at Bell Bay while the State Government amends legislation to cover the project's lapsed land use permits. Gunns spokesman Matt Horan said yesterday that the company had a schedule for the 70-hectare site of clearing one hectare a day. Planning Minister David Llewellyn said that the State Government had not been caught out over Land Use Planning permits for the pulp mill site, which lapsed at the end of August. But environmental groups claimed yesterday that the amendment was being rushed through Parliament in this session's last days to prevent the project from being challenged in court. Timber Communities Australia Tasmanian manager Barry Chipman said that he wasn't aware that the land use permits on the pulp mill site had lapsed. Examiner

5 November The State Government has admitted it rushed through legislation to give Gunns an extra two years before it has to start work on its $2billion pulp mill. Resources Minister David Llewellyn admitted the Pulp Mill Clarification Bill introduced into Parliament on Tuesday was approved by Cabinet only last Monday and had been rushed through normal government processes. State Parliament will today debate whether to allow Gunns until August 2011 to start work on its contentious Tamar Valley pulp mill, after the Solicitor-General advised that the mill's operating permit might have expired at the end of August. Solicitor-General Leigh Sealy told the Government last week that this legal uncertainty exposed Gunns and Tasmania to the unacceptable risk of a court challenge to the pulp mill's start. Environmental groups and the Tasmanian Greens have accused Premier David Bartlett of breaking his promise not to provide further government assistance to Gunns. Liberal leader Will Hodgman said the Opposition did not oppose extending the pulp mill permit and considered the new legislation reasonable. Mercury

4 November The Tasmanian Government has revealed it has only known for a few weeks that its approval permits for Gunns' pulp mill had expired. The Government's Pulp Mill Clarification Act introduced to Parliament yesterday gives the company until August 2011 to start substantial work on the pulp mill.Planning Minister David Llewellyn who said his department was notified in late last month about the potential legal problem. He said "The pulp mill's the biggest thing for Tasmania since, ever." Yahoo

4 November The Tasmanian Greens said that the Premier’s refusal to detail when he was first made aware of concerns over the Pulp Mill Permit expiry, and when Gunns Ltd were informed of the concerns and the government’s intention to legislate for an extension, was straight out of the Paul Lennon Handbook. Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said that David Bartlett’s refusal to provide factual answers to straight forward questions regarding this latest government favour for Gunns Ltd raises concerns that yet more secret deals have been done to get this mill up and running. “The proponent has described the Bartlett government’s legislation to extend the Pulp Mill permits as ‘government support’, which just goes to show that David Bartlett’s ‘line in the sand’ promise to the public has been broken beyond repair,” Mr McKim said. Greens

4 November Drumming Out A Failed Government. Democracy has not been looking good in Tasmania, but a recent protest showed that the fight against the Gunns pulp mill might actually revitalise the state, writes Amy Tyler.

People call Tasmania inward-looking. But having recently returned here to live I find the "clean, green island" is a microcosm of the political turmoil shaking our nation and world. As our federal MPs debate the pros and cons of an emissions trading scheme and world leaders meet to address climate change, the people — that is, us — continue to grapple with the everyday effects created when societies' deepening environmental values find increasing expression in the political sphere.

These values are transforming political, legal and social institutions in places all around the world. In Chile — not known for its high environmental standards — pulp mill executives can now be prosecuted and convicted for environmental crime, and in the UK, climate change activists have argued in the courts that their actions have been necessary to prevent a greater crime, thereby avoiding or reducing their punishment.

Tasmania often feels far away from these changes, yet on Sunday 4 October, I attended a rally in the small gold mining town of Beaconsfield where such values were very much in evidence. The protest was against the extraordinary support the ALP state Government is still providing for the Gunns Limited proposal to operate a bleached kraft pulp mill in northern Tasmania.

It was one of the more creative rallies on this issue....

New Matilda

3 November The Greens have attacked the new legislation claiming it gives the pulp mill project another huge boost. The Greens have attacked the Tasmanian Government's new legislation extending a permit deadline for the Gunns pulp mill. The Pulp Mill Clarification Bill gives Gunns until August 2011 to "substantially commence" work. "This absolutely exposes David Bartlett as being dishonest and a hypocrite." A spokesman for Gunns said the company welcomes the Bill as a show of Government support for the project. Lucy Landon Lane from protest group, Pulp the Mill, says the Government is not listening to Tasmanians. "There is so much anger and frustration in the community and we will continue to protest." ABC

3 November The Tasmanian Government has introduced fresh legislation to extend the deadline to August 2011 for permits relating to Gunns' northern Tasmanian pulp mill. Mr Llewellyn says the new bill is in response to advice from the Solicitor-General to clarify whether the original Pulp Mill Approval Permit had an expiry date. Gunns will be given until the end of August 2011 to "substantially commence" work on the project. "I understand that with the global recession and its impact on world financial markets there have been delays but my message today to Gunns is, get on with it." ABC

2 November Gunns is demanding $500,000 in legal costs from The Wilderness Society over a failed court case, an amount the not-for-profit organisation says will be difficult to pay. [It follows] the conservation group's unsuccessful challenge to the federal approval process for its Tamar Valley pulp mill. Ms Young argued that the "inflated" bill, which may be reduced during negotiation, was a "perfect illustration" of the need for protective cost orders in public-interest litigation. The federal government is considering a plan to protect litigants, in cases judged to be in the public interest, from cost orders if they lose. Business groups have warned that the reforms, outlined in the government's Access to Justice report, would open the floodgates to speculative litigation, potentially bankrupting companies found to have acted legally.