Five compelling facts about the planned Tamar Valley pulp mill story continue to drive strong and growing community opposition to the proposal. At stake is the livelihood, health and environment of 100 000 people who live within the 55km radius odour zone. Also at stake is the future of many politicians.
Tony Burke, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has misled Parliament and should be relieved of his portfolio.
“It’s time for the Prime Minister to cut Burke loose. Not only is Burke a plagiarist, a shameless proponent of vested interest and incompetent in his portfolio, but most seriously of all, he has misled Parliament,” stated TAP spokesperson Bob McMahon.
Summary of spin terms extracted from Gunns' statements to the ASX from 2007 on a pulp mill joint venture partner and finance
Here is the spin to cover a lack of substance extracted from 20 statements issued by Gunns to the ASX about imminent financing and construction from 2007.
Summary of key words and phrases from statements (the only bit you need to know)
“substantially progressed, completed in the near term, proceed quickly, final stages of completion, commencing on site construction, final terms, finalise the arrangement, strong international interest, active discussions, discussions continuing, continuing to progress, continuing to work positively, progress discussions, continuing to negotiate, continuing talks, continuing with the project, quickly as possible, move forward, will continue, quickly as possible, progressing, on target, expecting to reach agreement, finalised, moving forward positively, project ready.”
Buck and Joan Emberg need your help.
We are in the process of collecting dumb statements by politicians and other people in places of leadership in the community.
At the moment we are calling it the "Duh...Award" for the greatest and funniest and worst statement by anybody. No holds barred.. we mean any person in leadership in the community. We are neither party nor gender specific; just trying to develop a satirical aspect of the newspaper which will be coming in the future.
On 6 July 2005, the Resource Planning and Development Commission wrote a confidential letter to John Gay of Gunns detailing two major concerns with the planned pulp mill. These were that:
- the proposed process for making chlorine dioxide is not considered accepted modern technology and would breach Tasmanian guidelines and possibly breach the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, and
- that the mill has no plans for controlling fugitive odours from hundreds of emission points (drains, pump seals, pipe connections and vessels) which will cause significant nuisance and diminution in quality of life for people living in the mill area.
On the 12 July 2005, John Gay responded:
- that Jaako Poyry have advised Gunns that the chlorine dioxide process can be demonstrated as accepted modern technology, and,
- that fugitive emissions issue will be addressed in the Integrated Impact Statement.
The State Labor Government refused to allow the two letters to be tabled in Parliament (1 July 09).
Download the two confidential letters from below.
What happened then...
In March 2007 Gunns pulled out of the RPDC assessment. It emerged sometime later that a letter from the RPDC was about to be sent to Gunns stating that the proposal was critically deficient in eight key areas.
Despite claims by Gunns, the control of fugitive odours has still not been addressed according to pulp and paper expert Dr Warwick Raverty.
Section D.5.15 of the air emission guidelines allows the pulp mill to produce fugitive odours for 2 years after start up before the government regulator is required to act. Then, a regulator appointed expert does a review and makes some suggestions about what to do. However, there is no requirement in the guidelines for Gunns to do what the expert says. See all bark and no teeth.
Concerns over the non standard method for producing chlorine dioxide remain unanswered.
The State Government's own fast track Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007 contains a provision (Section 11) that blocks any person from accessing the courts to seek compensation for damages arising from the pulp mill.
The way is open for Gunns to ignore the impact of fugitive odours on the health of the population living within a 110k-wide circle of the pulp mill.
Media release 28 June 09. Who is the government working for, foreign operatives or the Tasmanian public?
“Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke last week flagged using taxpayer subsidies to make it more attractive to foreign operatives to take control of Gunns’ planned pulp mill and Tasmania's resources” said TAP Into A Better Tasmania spokesman, Bob McMahon.
But a new state-wide EMRS poll shows two in every three Tasmanians don’t want the planned Tamar Valley pulp mill to go ahead because it will result in foreign operatives effectively controlling Tasmanian water, land and forests.
The poll was commissioned in mid-June by TAP Into a Better Tasmania. Of the 800 Tasmanians surveyed, 65% said “no” the government should not allow the pulp mill to go ahead if it results in foreign control, 26% said “yes”, and 9% were unsure.
Bob McMahon said, “The recent endorsement of Gunns’ pulp mill by the Federal Minister Tony Burke shows Labor is working for effective foreign control of our land, water and forests. But according to the latest EMRS poll, Tasmanians overwhelmingly don’t want it”.
“Labor should know better than to rely on those with a conflict of interest in Gunns and the CFMEU for advice to get behind a project that has failed to analyse the risks, failed to make a proper business case, and failed the best interests of Tasmanians,” Mr McMahon said.
"If this was a reputable business it would have attracted reputable finance. It did not. The ANZ, quickly followed by other Australian and foreign banks wanted nothing to do with it. That's why Gunns are trawling the world with cap in hand looking for a ‘Khemlani’. That's why the CFMEU dominated federal Labor are spruiking the mill on John Gay's behalf. What Minister Burke is doing is far more serious than what Rudd and Swan have been accused of over the car dealer John Grant affair," he continued.
For further information contact:
Spokesperson for TAP Into A Better Tasmania
“Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke is looking very foolish today having relied on partial and biased advice from Gunns and the CFMEU to endorse Gunns’ planned pulp mill,” said TAP Into a Better Tasmania spokesman, Bob McMahon.
“Tony Burke should know better than to rely on those with a conflict of interest for advice to get behind a project that has failed to analyse the risks and failed to make a proper business case,” Mr McMahon said.
“No reputable banker will touch the project and it has proved unacceptable everywhere else in the world", he continued.
The State and Commonwealth’s own RPDC assessment found the Gunns proposal critically deficient in eight areas. There has been no risk assessment to Treasury standards, no socio-economic and environmental analysis, and no analysis of the costs.
Even the assessment by Sweco Pic did not examine noise emissions, impacts on surface or estuarine waters, effects on flora and fauna, transport implications and social and economic effects, nor construction impacts, nor impacts from off-site infrastructure development such as the raw water supply pipeline, effluent pipeline or the quarry.
Mr McMahon said, “The federal Minister has gone out on a limb and ignored the agriculture and fisheries responsibilities of his own portfolio by publicly backing Gunns' proposed pulp mill for the Tamar Valley.”
At risk are many wine-making, organic food and horticultural small businesses that thrive in the region and 2600 tourism-related businesses in Launceston and Tamar Valley.
Risks to Tasmania’s fishing industry due to dioxin contamination from pulp mill effluent stand to cost the industry $693.5 million and 700 job losses over the life of the project (Tasmanian Round Table for Sustainable Industries Project www.lec.org.au).
"Tasmania's hard-won clean reputation as a producer of fine seafood, wine, and a range of high quality produce in the agricultural and horticultural industries, stands to be gutted by Burke’s unquestioning acceptance of biased lobbying by the CFMEU," Bob McMahon said.
Not one survey or poll conducted either statewide or nationally during the past five years showed majority support for the mill.
For further information contact:
Spokesperson for TAP Into a Better Tasmania
Letter to Swedish firm Sodra about significant and undisclosed risks from investing in Gunns' pulp mill
12 July 2009
CEO Mr Leif Brodon
Södra, Skogsudden, 351 89 Växjö
Fax: 0470-891 85
Re: Significant risk to Södra’s bottom line from investing in Gunns’ planned pulp mill, Tamar Valley, Tasmania.
Dear Mr Brodon,
We write to point out a significant and undisclosed risk to Södra’s bottom line should the company decide to invest in Gunns’ pulp mill planned for the Tamar Valley, Tasmania.
It is unlikely that Gunns has pointed out their dependency on direct and indirect government subsidies because Gunns has neither reported on these in its Integrated Impact Statement and does not report the subsidies in their books. Given the scale of these subsidies, their potential loss to Gunns and forestry in Tasmania poses a significant risk to the future value of Södra’s investment as the global financial downturn forces governments to look for ways to cut back on expenditure.
The profitability of Gunns Ltd has long been artificially propped up with a wide range of taxpayer subsidies as listed in the Appendix below. A cash subset of forestry related subsidies have also been identified in an independent study by economist Graeme Wells.
The local community via its organisation TAP Into a Better Tasmania has estimated subsidies for Gunns and forestry in Tasmania and costs arising from the pulp mill project. These include losses to other businesses and the community of more than $3.1bn, one time diversion of taxpayer dollars of $399m (so far) and ongoing subsidies of $360m/year See Subsidies and the Appendix below for more detail.
The scale of many subsidies is not precisely known as there has been no socio-economic and environmental analysis of the pulp mill proposal or an analysis of cost side of a cost-benefit study. Neither has there been a risk assessment to Australian Treasury standards of the pulp mill project. Sweco Pic’s assessment of the project “does not include … noise emissions, impacts on surface or estuarine waters, effects on flora and fauna, transport implications and social and economic effects, and does not include construction impacts and does not include impacts from off-site infrastructure development such as raw water supply pipeline, effluent pipeline or quarry” (p12 Assessment of the Gunns Limited Bell Bay Pulp Mill Against the Environmental Emission Limit Guidelines, 25 June 2007)
There is considerable community disquiet about the assessment of the project with only 26% agreeing with the Government's fast-track process, 64% disagreeing and 10% unsure (8 August 2007 EMRS statewide poll. (See http://tapvision.info/node/413). Also, 26 of 27 opinion polls conducted from 2005 to the present show a majority of Tasmanians and Australians are opposed to a Gunns’ pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. Only one poll in George Town near the proposed pulp mill, showed majority support (53% to 47%) in February 2008.
Governments are coming under increasing pressure as a result of the global financial crisis to reign in spending, recoup costs and reduce subsidies in the face of backlash from voters who are increasingly angry with the loss of essential services. Some of these services include health, public housing, education services, disability services, road & rail funding, national parks and nature conservation.
The dependence on subsidies means that neither Gunns nor Södra can guarantee the future bottom line profitability of the proposed pulp mill. Professional business consultants have advised us that the most responsible decision for Södra is to wait until the scale and type of subsidies is clear and the risks clarified.
We welcome inquiries to provide further information about the financial risk to your bottom line from investing in Gunns’ planned pulp mill.
Spokesperson for TAP Into a Better Tasmania
Cc Evans & Peck, Sydney office
Fax: +612 9495 0520
Whilst it has not been possible to produce precise figures for all subsidies to Gunns and the forestry industry, it is clear that the level is very high. The global financial downturn and a decline taxpayer in funded support poses a significant risk to Södra’s future bottom line.
Some opportunity costs and subsidies for forestry and the proposed pulp mill include:
1. Logging operations (research, building and maintaining roads, bridges). Greater than $65m/yr.
2. Resource use (free water use by plantations, transportation subsidies for heavy truck traffic). $176m/yr.
3. Provision of infrastructure (rail, pipelines highway upgrades). One time costs = $376m, annual cost = $19m/yr.
4. Pulp mill project promotion, planning and review. One time costs = $14m.
5. Direct government assistance to logging industry (plantation establishment schemes, favourable loan agreements, economically inefficient pricing policies, taxation policies and direct and indirect financial assistance) over past 10 years = $632.8m. See Graeme Wells report at (http://tasmaniantimes.com/images/uploads/WELLS_ECONOMIC_REPORT.pdf)
6. Indirect costs (health impacts on communities, losses to 2600 tourism and related businesses in Launceston and the Tamar Valley, loss of agricultural land to plantations, losses to 77 fine food and winery related businesses in the Tamar Valley, risks to Bass Strait fishing industry). Largely unknown but exceeds $1.1bn/yr.
7. Carbon trading losses ($165m/year).
8. Electricity subsidies (to Gunns and major contract users in the wood processing sector). Unknown.
Updated and revised 26 May 2009, with new foul gas zone boundaries and downloadable pdf.
Fugitive odours from pulp mills
Advice from Dr Warwick Raverty
Dr Raverty is a retired pulp and paper expert and former Assessment Panellist for the Tasmanian Resource Planning and Development Commission which was charged with the responsibility of examining Gunns’ proposal for a kraft pulp mill at Long Reach, Tamar Valley, Tasmania. He provided the following advice to TAP on 10 May 09.
Fugitive odours (foul gas) from Gunns’ planned pulp mill will be detected in the air up to 55kms away eg Launceston, Deloraine, Longford and Bridport if it is built at Bell Bay. Foul gas causes nausea and headaches in most people exposed to it for long periods. It will impact on health, quality of life and businesses of everyone living within the 55km zone around Bell Bay.
All kraft pulp mills produce tens of tonnes of toxic gases per day that pulp mill managers refer to euphemistically as 'Non Condensable Gases', or NCG for short. In the same way that industry managers refer to 'outplacement' while workers call it ‘getting the sack’, pulp mill workers call NCG by its real name ‘foul gas’!
The Hydro is asking for asking for public comment on water flows down the Gorge, Launceston.
This is a rare and important opportunity for you or your organisation to identify any issues of concern relating to water levels, water flows, demand on the water or any other associated environmental, social or cultural values or concerns.
For a backgrounder on water flows through the Gorge, please see the TAP report - Water audit of the South Esk Basin and an assessment of proposed pulp mill requirements.
Just fill in the short questionnaire (download the attachment below; Hydro - Cataract Gorge Environmental Flow Public Questionnaire) and return to Dr Caroline Whalley at Hydro Tasmania Consulting, 89 Cambridge Park Drive, Cambridge, Tasmania 7170 or email to email@example.com before 22 May 2009.
Friday 1st May 2009
TAP Into a Better Tasmania is concerned that the extreme claims by Gunns, CFMEU and Timber Communities Australia about the planned pulp mill are threatening thousands of existing Tasmanian jobs in fine food production, wineries, agriculture, tourism and fishing industries during impending hard times.
“The planned pulp mill will cost the State economy up to $2.1billion and 2088 jobs lost in tourism alone, according to the Business Round Table Report,” said TAP Into a Better Tasmania spokesman Tony Saddington.
Federal Court appeal launched
Lawyers for Forests Inc have commenced a new proceeding against the Minister for Environment and Gunns Limited.
LFF has filed a notice of appeal in the Federal Court against a decision that was made last month (9 April 2009). In April, a Judge rejected a challenge to the Minster’s decision to approve the construction and operation of Gunns’ pulp mill.
The case will be heard by 3 judges of the Federal Court. If LFF succeeds in the appeal, the Minister’s decision to approve the mill will be overturned.
The date of the hearing is not yet known.
See the attachment for notice of appeal.
In whose interest are the Government’s proposed new planning laws? Why are they being fast tracked?
To progress towards a better Tasmania, TAP into a Better Tasmania strongly recommends that the Local Government of Tasmania (LGAT) demand that the State Government’s planning review process be stopped to allow a full and proper input by the public and all Local Councils.
TAP into a Better Tasmania (TAP) is angered and alarmed about the State Government's plan to introduce legislation that will see Council involvement, and public consultation, being removed from Tasmania's planning processes; to be replaced by an executive decision-making process authorised by the Government Minister of the day.
In democracies, governments are elected by the people. Good governments act in the best interests of the people, with full and open periods of public consultation. We believe good government should also include a recognition of the value local councils have for their communities, and an acknowledgment of the importance local councils have in the broader democratic electoral system.
In the context of the proposed changes to Tasmania's Planning System, we ask LGAT to demand a halt to the review process to allow full and proper discussion and input, and to convey the following concerns to State Government.
TAP into a Better Tasmania is a politically non-aligned community group of 3000 members, that has grown out of the State Government's determined attempt to fast-track Gunns Ltd's proposed Pulp Mill, and the subsequent erosion of Tasmania's democratic process.
Some of TAP's concerns relating to this legislation include:
1. Inadequate time for public comment
Despite the significant changes that are being proposed less than three weeks has been allowed for public comment, one of which includes the Easter public holiday. Media attention has been minimal, possibly because media releases relating to the proposal have been few. This lack of public awareness about the proposed Planning System changes has resulted in very restricted opportunities for debate or comment in newspapers or the electronic media by either planning experts, or the public. This is both unjust and unfair considering the enormous impact this legislation will have on every Tasmanian. TAP believes more time must be made available for comment.
2. Minister’s new executive powers are excessive
TAP has grave concerns about any Minister having the power to ‘call in’ a project without a due and proper process that includes public consultation, and consideration for everyone in the community who may potentially be negatively affected by a development project.
3. High cost of secrecy
We question why there is no requirement for the Minister to make public any decisions that are made in relation to significant developments, and particularly Projects of Regional Significance. Transparency and its benefit, a social licence to proceed with the project, is lost under the new proposal.
4. Restricted rights of appeal
The severely limited opportunities for individuals to appeal planning decisions that may have adverse effects on them is undemocratic. Appeals may only be pursued through the Supreme Court on matters of law, and costs are prohibitive for the average citizen.
5. Coercion of local planning regulations
Under the proposed legislation the Minister can override existing local council planning laws, enabling a project to proceed even if council planners have deemed a project unsuitable. Local councils should not be forced to modify their own planning laws to comply with a potentially controversial, secretly assessed Government-backed development.
6. Restricted focus on economic benefits contravenes best practice planning
A comprehensive analysis of the pros and cons of economic, social and environmental aspects of any proposed development is essential for good planning eg. the Equator Principles governing assessment by banks of project financing.
The proposed Planning System changes appear to focus on those projects the Government considers to be ‘economically beneficial’. An example of this flawed model is Gunns Ltd’s proposed Pulp Mill, a project that ignored social and environmental aspects, and failed to consider potential negative outcomes when it concluded the mill would deliver economic benefits for the region. [The detailed and independently prepared report for Tasmanian Round Table for Sustainable Industries Project, www.lec.org.au contradicted this view. Their report concluded the Pulp Mill would deliver an overall negative benefit to the Tamar Valley].
Assessments of Projects of Regional Significance must incorporate the social, environmental, and economic factors involved, as well as thoroughly considering the potentially negative outcomes likely to result from any proposed development.
TAP strongly opposes any decision that is based solely on potentially positive benefits.
7. Perception of bias
The Minister can ‘call in’ a project if he/she believes there is bias on the part of Council. There may in fact be good reason for taking a view on a project eg. problems involving pollution, adverse health effects, or social acceptability. Such a view can be seen as ‘biased’ from the Minister’s limited perspective.
8. Political donations
There does not appear to be any provision for questioning the Minister’s own bias. For example, the new planning proposal allows for a Minister to ‘call in’ a project if the proponent has previously donated, or is likely to substantially donate to election campaigns. Any review of the Planning System must ensure there is no potential for Ministerial bias to occur.
We question the purpose of attempting to introduce sweeping changes to Tasmania's Planning System in a secretive manner and without proper public input. In whose interest is it? The State Government, the proponent, local councils or the community?
We demand further time be granted for every Local Council to examine these changes properly, and the implications they will have for their own municipalities, and for proper public consultation and discussion to take place.
TAP strongly opposes any legislation that is perceived to undermine civil liberties. We are an active, politically aware organisation that has organised rallies in Hobart and Launceston to demonstrate our concerns over the flawed pulp mill and pipeline planning approvals procedure. Heightened community awareness and continuing community opposition has seen more than 21000 voters pledge not to vote for any candidate in federal, state or local council elections who supports the pulp mill.
We have already lobbied politicians and political parties on all levels of Government. We will do so again with this odious piece of proposed legislation.
To move towards a better Tasmania, TAP strongly recommends that LGAT demand that the planning review process be stopped to allow a full and proper input by the public and all councils.
Review of the Freedom of Information Act 1991 – Call for Feedback
Comment is invited from members of the Tasmanian Community on the Directions Paper: Strengthening trust in Government… everyone’s right to know.
The purpose of this paper is to promote discussion in the community about the right to know and about a new direction for sharing information with the Tasmanian Community.
Operation Smokewatch is about the community recording incidents of fires and smoke around Tasmania. The information from members of the public will be used by the community group "Operation Smokewatch" to lobby the government to protect human health.
Smoke smell and visibility are good indicators of very small smoke particles (PM 2.5). These particles are small enough to penetrate far into the lungs and cause significant harm to your health.
Keep a watch for smoke particularly in Autumn and Spring. If you see or smell smoke or see a fire, record your observations of smoke events using the following pattern:
- Time of smoke smell - in morning (SM), afternoon (SA), evening (SE) or night (SN).
- Health effects observed
- Fires known via observation (O) or websites (W)
- Nature of fire if known eg forestry, parks etc
Example 1 (actual incident)
- 23 March 2009
- Newstead Launceston
- Nature - unknown
Example 2 (actual incident)
- 28 March 2009
- SM, SE, SN
- Headaches outside, loss of voice by neighbour with lung condition
- Nature - smoke from 3 fires at Burnie (listed on FIAT website)
Don't forget to log in to www.tapvision.info so you can upload your observations. Click on "add new comment".