Open letter to Premier Bartlett re pulp mill concerns of TAP Into A Better Tasmania

Dear Premier,
Following your impromptu meeting with TAP members at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery on Friday 2 July, we wish to explain further our concerns and what we believe is required to fix the turmoil created by your predecessor over Gunns’ proposed pulp mill.

Members of TAP want to protect the community’s health, lifestyles and investments from the proposed pulp mill. TAP is also concerned by the failure of political ‘representatives’ to represent our interests. The level of anger and frustration towards the pulp mill and the government is reflected in the two thirds of Tasmanians consistently opposed to Gunns’ project, and by a large membership of 1000, and in meetings attended by up to 100 TAP members every two weeks for the last five years. TAP Into A Better Tasmania (TAP) does not support any particular political party.

The community has a long list of serious concerns over Gunns’ proposed pulp mill and its wood supply which cannot be brushed aside. They know their health will be affected by pulp mill smell in a valley prone to inversions. Some angry members have been directly sprayed with pesticides near plantations. They know that roads are made unsafe by more heavy vehicles and that tourism jobs will be lost when the tourists stop coming. They know from direct experience that streams and springs are drying up from thirsty young trees in plantations.  They are worried by the effluent impacting fishing and by the damage to Tasmania’s clean image. Fishermen say it takes only one contaminated scallop to lose an export industry.

The community knows that the government is not doing its job of protecting the people, the environment and businesses from the harm this pulp mill would cause.

They also know that the talks between loggers and environmentalists over forestry exclude consideration of the harmful impacts of plantations.

Under the old RPDC guidelines a large project proposal was to have addressed “all potential environmental, social, community and economic impacts of the construction and operation” of the pulp mill. Instead, the Lennon Labor government delivered a limited benefits-only study by manufacturers of pulp mill technology, Sweco Pic.

It is clear that Gunns are in no hurry. Given the foreshortened assessment by RPDC to supposedly avoid severe economic losses, that Gunns’ project information was “critically deficient”, and the ongoing rejection by banks and possible partners, the proposal should be axed or be resubmitted to the planning system for a complete assessment at Gunns’ expense.

TAP would accept the verdict of a planning process that:
1. did not harm the health of the community;
2. did not prevent those who are adversely affected from seeking adequate compensation for harm or financial loss;
3. protected existing businesses that depend upon a clean green Tasmania;
4. protected the air, water and land environment upon which we all depend;
5. did not rely upon ongoing subsidies (including the wood supply) which should be better spent on services such as hospitals and schools; and
6. did not compromise the capacity of Tasmania to withstand future challenges from climate change, population growth, forest diseases and fire among others.

In addition, the planning process must:
7. review the proposal with all its inputs (including wood supply) and outputs:
8. include independent and scientific assessment;
9. accept public input; and,
10. include an assessment of alternative uses of our resources including water and land use.

If you set in place a good governance process to deliver results against the ten criteria above, it gives you some chance of getting the community to back a revised pulp mill proposal and to back your government.

Our members have been telling us that they would never accept Gunns’ pulp mill as proposed. Many of the costs that would be imposed upon the public including damage to health, lost jobs, water losses and road damage were never considered in the Government’s benefits-only study.

We trust that you will in good faith consider the ten crucial criteria above in order to heal community divisions for the long term benefit of all. We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely
Ross Story, President TAP Into A Better Tasmania