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

Forest policy of Environment Tasmania

The 15 page forest policy of Environment Tasmania (ET) can be downloaded from below.

Note, TAP as a community organisation does not necessarily endorse the content of ET's  policy but provides access to the document here to facilitate discussion on the Round Table meetings between environmental and forestry groups.

Initial Response to the George River Water Quality Panel

Initial Response to the George River Water Quality Panel
Dr Marcus Scammell & Dr Alison Bleaney, 1 July, 2010
The Panel has come to the conclusion that the toxin or toxins present in the
George River are within acceptable limits, and therefore pose no threat to the
ecosystem or the community.
This is despite recognition that there have been oyster mortality events and
apparent other anomalies within the catchment. It was these mortality events
and anomalous ill-thrift that led to our investigations.

Premier Bartlett meets with TAP and asks a question

An impromptu meeting between Premier Bartlett and members of TAP Into A Better Tasmania took place on July 5 at the Queen Victora Museum, Launceston. The Premiers key question was "Is there any, can I ask you a question, is there any circumstances under which a pulp mill, you know, if you think about it, if it was totally, um, chlorine free, if it was closed loop, if it was in another place, I’m just saying, I’m trying to ask you, is there a scenario and it was obviously all plantation fed and accredited by FSC, is there a circumstance under which you would say No, that’s a reasonable project? Would you object or not?". Read the full transcript at Tasmanian


Premier David Bartlett's minder checking for 'dangerous' community members. Tappers - Estelle Ross, Susie Clarke and Buck Emberg. Photo Garry Stannus.

The Forestry Assault

By  Mike Bolan. Published 22 June 2010 on

If someone wanted to damage you, your property, your lifestyle, your future and/or your business how would you feel about it if they also expected you to pay them to cause the damage?

Unenthusiastic? Hostile?

That’s basically why so many Tasmanians oppose forestry as it’s conducted here.

Overall it seems that the shift of focus of Tasmania’s timber industry from valued timbers to woodchips has fuelled a range of dysfunctional results, including huge losses to the industry involving multiple bankruptcies (e.g. Great Southern, TimberCorp, FEA) and lost profits for Gunns. The ongoing efforts to shoehorn the idea of turning trees into their lowest common denominator of fibre, has corrupted our political system and threatens a massive community revolt.

The forestry story has previously been focused on environmental objections versus forestry interests that decry objections as “green” (and therefore presumably irrelevant). Without paid representatives and professional media spokespeople, the stories of communities and ordinary individuals have been swamped by paid spinmeisters.

I will try to tell the story simply - complex and extensive though it is - and to go beyond the name calling, accusations and assumptions of entitlement that are usually contained in forestry’s self-interested narrative.

The island …

… of Tasmania is about 63,000 sq km, much of which is inaccessible. Overall, it offers one of the few remaining places on the planet where some natural wilderness still exists along with low population densities that promise rural lifestyles that could be enjoyed in peace and tranquillity.

Because there are still some natural forest areas that remain beautiful and offer peace and tranquillity, the island offers the opportunity for relaxed lifestyles, intimate relations with nature and innovative industries (for example, self sustaining retirement centres) except for …

The forest industry

… which dominates Tasmania’s landscape, resources, infrastructures and governments and enjoys multiple exemptions from the laws that apply to, and protect, the rest of us; that judges public grievances against it and finds itself blameless; that depletes the landscape and our water catchments at our expense; and that constantly expects more money and more resources from us in order to feed global fibre markets and line the pockets of a few.

Astute readers will note that trying to compete in a global low margin/high volume commodities market from a small island with relatively high costs was always a very dubious proposition. It seems to fit a 19th century “big is good” mentality but doesn’t fit Tasmania.


Scale of Tasmania relative to other countries

The only way that forestry has been able to maintain any semblance of profitability is via generous subsidies and exemptions from laws coupled with low or no cost resources and other forms of public assistance. Forestry describes their heavily subsidised state as “sustainable”.

When the absurd “world scale” pulp mill was first mooted, it was well known that global prices for pulp were on a long term decline and that low cost suppliers would dominate. Indeed expert forest actuaries and others advised the ill fated Resource Development and Planning Commission (RPDC) of the realities. The Labor government’s answer to that problem was to dump the RPDC!
Historical pulp price
DBS Vickers pulp and wood report published at the time the pulp mill was to be evaluated, forecast current world realities …

Low cost suppliers could displace existing producers. A key trend on the supply side is that producers from low-cost regions like Brazil and Indonesia could displace higher cost producers from North America and Europe. This is especially so given that supply is expected to exceed demand over the next few years. The closing down of some capacity should then help to tighten supply.

When we read the Vickers report (and many others) and looked at Gunns “world scale” proposal in context, we saw that the entire idea was ridiculously over scaled for a small island like Tasmania. The only “solution” was more and bigger subsidies from taxpayers; money that couldn’t possibly be justified if forestry was “sustainable” as the industry insisted.
Global wood stocks
To get a better sense of what “world scale” means, Gunns mill was to produce about 1 million tonnes of pulp per year, requiring 4 million tonnes of green pulp wood. With a production rate per hectare of land of around 150 tonnes per hectare taking around 15 years to grow, that means clearfelling about 270 sq km of densely planted trees each and every year - about twice the area of Sydney.

Since it takes about 15 years to regrow, the total area to be shaved clean by the mill would be around 4,000 sq km! To produce that timber requires more than 600 Gl of free water taken from Tasmania’s catchments each year at the expense of food producers and communities, plus a load of fresh water to be converted into a toxic waste stream by the pulp mill’s operations.

From recent collapses in the pulp wood supply industry it’s pretty clear that Tasmania cannot compete on price in global markets in which the price paid is not only non-negotiable, it’s declining every year!

Tree growers and forestry contractors are the ones who must suffer the predictable price squeeze. Taxpayers must fork out for any losses via a cosy $15/tonne 20-year wood supply deal between the government and Gunns that prices our resources to attract foreign buyers. We already know that …

The impacts so far include …

  •  closure of sawmills, many of which were family owned;
  •  job losses as mechanisation takes over from manual work;
  •  expansion of activities to feed a global market with a low value commodity (fibre);
  •  expansion of plantations to nearly 3,000 sq km requiring 600 Gl water each year;
  •  large reductions in rates income to Councils as plantations pay a fraction;
  •  legal problems for everyone as forestry exempted from laws that apply to taxpayers;
  •  health and other system failures as taxes are diverted to forestry subsidies;
  •  serious concerns that vast plantation operations are polluting water supplies;
  •  health problems as autumn forestry “burns” cloud skies with particulates;
  •  frightening driving experiences from encounters with massive log trucks; and
  •  MIS failures creating big losses for mom and pop “investors”.

Some argue that Gunns is fortunate that they don’t have their $2.5 billion pulp mill already because they’d have more than $3 billion debt that they couldn’t pay off as opposed to the current level of $600 million.

Ever since the mill was first falsely described as an investment in Tasmania, the industry and government have relied on deception, ignorance and spin to sell their proposal. The community always knew that the mill was a $2.5 billion investment in Scandinavian suppliers that Tasmanians would have to pay off with their resources and taxes.

Why is it all happening?

According to many, Australia’s governments believe that forestry money and CFMEU votes can get them elected, consequently, like Howard’s government previously, they are prepared to sacrifice our lifestyles, our hopes and aspirations, our taxes and other services, our water and forests, impartial representation, our environment and animals and anything else that it might take to get this outsized, 19th century, big smokestack proposal off the ground and lever themselves into office.

What Tasmanians get

Here’s the story that I was told by the many people that I visited in rural communities in Tasmania.

“The industry puts its hand out for multiple favours from taxpayers in the form of big cash subsidies; free water to feed their 3,000 sq km plantation estate which was acquired at taxpayer and small investors’ expense; free roads and bridges plus their maintenance; paid forestry research and publicity; legal exemptions from planning, clean air, freedom of information and other laws that apply to everyone else.

“So many exemptions and favours that forestry is now literally a law unto themselves.

“In exchange they cut down our forests to sell as wood chips to overseas markets; destroy animal habitats; burn off everything with napalm including ground cover and organic soil; smoke out our towns and villages and threaten asthmatics and anyone else with breathing problems; dominate our roads with overloaded log trucks; put poisons in our water supplies; and threaten us all with a sub standard pulp mill whose approval was bought from a Swedish pulp mill supplier.

“The result of forestry’s efforts includes losses of food production farmland; huge depletion of our water catchments (600 Gl/yr); bankrupt food processing businesses; forest contractors forced to operate on a shoe string; bankrupt MIS schemes; massive losses to small investors and taxpayers; and a divided community and corrupted government.”

That’s what most Tasmanians have got for their hard earned taxes … detrimental impacts, big costs, conflict and division. Meanwhile patients of our health system are suffering as lack of funding bites deep into essential services.

Mark Poynter’s article ( Extract, Comments on TT, HERE  On OO HERE ) goes a long way to showing how that conflict is inspired and maintained. Instead of recognising the damage that forestry is doing, he takes the simple-minded approach of attacking critics as being “deep greens”. In doing so, he extends the problems for forestry and for communities.

The root cause of conflict is the actions of forest clearers that attack the lives, properties, health, governance, taxes and futures of forest lovers and ordinary people who must pay for the depredations and failures of an industry that was designed for another time and another place.

The debate

The exchange of media releases that passes for debate in Australia has mainly been focused on environmental objections to forestry. Both these and industry arguments have been advanced by paid representatives of the groups involved.

The community’s paid representatives are the politicians from Labor and Liberal parties that “approved” the pulp mill before it was even evaluated. Once party approval was achieved, Labor and Liberal politicians took a position of ignoring community representations against more support for forestry, or opposed to a “world scale” pulp mill.

The community chant of “no pulp mill” can now be replaced with “no taxation without representation”.

The perversion of our “representative” system is complete.

That represents the case for the community.

Key concepts and assumptions that I used:

  1. Most Tasmanians want to retain the unique qualities of the environment that we have, rather than degrade it to advantage a few people at the expense of many.
  2. An industry should contribute more to communities than it detracts.
  3. Communities have the moral right to establish the manner in which industries operate in their midst (e.g. pollution and noise control) and the moral right to determine how their resources and monies are used.
  4. In Tasmania too much “forest management” means wholesale clear felling and burning, with valued timbers along with pulp wood all going to the chipper.
  5. The level of concern being expressed in the community (approximately 65 per cent oppose a pulp mill) is proportional to the damage being done by forestry.
  6. Tasmanian Times doesn’t create anti-forestry fervour; it is the actions of forestry that lead to those views.
  7. The existence of forests does not itself justify the actions of forestry nor create a need for woodchips. The existence of areas reserved from logging do not justify further logging undertaken elsewhere.
  8. By dint of paying taxes, Tasmanians and Australians are entitled to fair and equal representation from their paid representatives.
  9. All Australians should be equal under the law. There exists no justification to exempt one industry from the laws and requirements under which the rest of us must live.

Mike Bolan is an independent complex systems and business consultant. Mike worked for the Tamar valley community and others to prepare materials for the RPDC in which he spent about a year visiting Tasmanian communities, businesses and individuals to learn the impacts of forestry operations and the implications of a pulp mill on them. The lessons learned from that period are still relevant today and are used in this story, which is told to inform not to gain income.

Media release 21 June 2010, Forest talks set to fail

“Private discussions between environmentalists and forest industry groups to solve conflict over logging in the State are doomed to fail if the wide-ranging concerns of the public are not considered”, said John Day, spokesman for the community group TAP Into A Better Tasmania.
The proposed forestry roundtable to thrash out a way forward for the industry in Tasmania has been sidelined in favour of private talks between environmentalists and the timber sector.
“Environmentalists do not speak for communities hit by aerial spraying, lost jobs in food production, depleted water supplies, and many other impacts from the way forestry is currently practised”, John Day said.
“The fibre plantation wood supply for the proposed pulp mill is a major land use and imposes a huge burden on many for the benefit of a few”, he continued.
“A full independent risk assessment with community input is essential and must include the costs and impacts of all plantations on the Tasmanian people, public subsidies and the ability of the Government to fund basic essential services”, he said.

For further information contact:
TAP Into A Better Tasmania spokesman, John Day

For further information contact:
TAP Into A Better Tasmania spokesman, John Day

The Tragedy of Tasmania - Peter Henning

(First published on Tasmanian Times , 19 May 2010. A thought provoking essay on the current clash between forestry, political, social and environmental interests - Admin).

Now that the Tasmanian election is done and dusted, and the show-bag tinsel of non-core promises (in the Tasmanian context all promises are non-core) are being processed for deep storage or are being changed beyond recognition, it’s back to business as usual.

Business as usual in Tasmania is defined by giving absolute priority, above and beyond everything else, to the interests of corporatised industrial forestry.  Jobs can disappear in any other sector of the Tasmanian economy in their hundreds, whether it be in agriculture and food processing, or elsewhere in the primary sector, like mining, or in manufacturing everything from ships and vehicle bearings to footwear, without too much real concern and interest, but when it comes to industrial forestry that is something entirely different.

The irony, of course, as has been carefully explained by Max Bound and Tom Ellison, among others, is that there has been a steady loss of jobs in the forestry sector for at least a generation, at the same time that there has been an exponential increase in logging under the clear-felling regime, as well as an extensive expansion of the single-species plantation estate for woodchips.

Now, “suddenly” (to stretch the meaning of the word beyond any credibility at all), in the immediate aftermath of the election, we are told that something is more than seriously askew about business as usual.  There is a “crisis” in the bush, which “nobody saw coming”, as the hilariously jocular Jeremy Rockcliff described it.  Where’s he been?  So behold, all the cloud cuckoos are now screeching in unison that a crisis has “suddenly” occurred, and that business ain’t business as normal any more.

Round and round the same old table?

(An excellent systems perspective of the crumbling Tasmanian forestry industry originally published in the Tasmanian Times, 18 May 2010, Ed.)

Mike Bolan 

The current forestry ‘crisis’ in what was recently described as a ‘sustainable industry’, is revealing on-going dysfunction in our system of government coupled with persistent misunderstandings that are threatening to wedge the Green movement in Tasmania.

Looking around we can see that human foibles can cause us to favour one person over others, even to their detriment, and that favouritism may continue despite repeated examples of bad behaviour. Such is the lot of some families where one child is favoured over all others and, despite repeated transgressions, the parent(s) remain blind to the issue.

Spent all the pocket money? Never mind, here’s more. Failed your exams, never mind here’s a private tutor. You beat up little Johnny? Never mind, I’ll tell him to stay away from you in future.

Rewarding favoured parties for their failures usually produces nothing more than more demands and more failures, as families with a grossly spoiled child may realise. Favouritism can produce monsters.

The Soviet Union comprehensively showed that the analogy holds for wide public subsidies after they developed some of the world’s most polluting industries that produced some of the world’s most useless products.
The lesson is that subsidies effectively disconnect industries from the needs of their customers and focus them instead on arguing for more subsidies. As a result they morph into political persuasion systems to increase their political influence and guarantee more subsidies for the future.

In Tasmania’s forestry subsidies take several forms which include:-
• free or below market costs for scarce resources (e.g. water for plantations, native timbers);
• non-repayable cash payments (e.g. Community Forest Agreement grant);
• legal exemptions that cut costs (e.g. from Clean Air Act and Planning Acts among many others);
• legal favours that reduce risks (e.g. forestry judges grievances made against it by taxpayers);
• political favours that protect the industry from scrutiny (e.g. Pulp Mill Assessment Act); and
• other kinds of support (e.g. information blackouts on dangers such as water pollution).

Tasmania’s forestry industry enjoys ALL of these favours at our expense and has done so for several decades, with the subsidies increasing over time. The result is a ‘sustainable’ industry that is totally reliant upon subsidies for its survival. That’s not an industry, it’s a charity.

MIS damage

(Bob Loone has updated his letter originally published in the TAP newspaper (summer edition) with the latest impacts of MIS on farmland in the Meander municipaility. Editor)

Just in the Meander Valley Municipality over 15,000 ha of highly productive farmland have been destroyed by Managed Investment Scheme (MIS) forestry corporations. That's 75 farms of @ 200ha (500 acres) which consisted of mostly family farms, many with irrigation or low cost irrigation potential, with better class of soils and higher rainfall than the midlands.


The people of Tasmania are desperate for a return to democracy and a return to sanity in a world being torn apart by greed. 'A WORM in the APPLE' by film maker David Leigh follows their fight against overwhelming odds.

Australians, like all in the free world, have fought and continue to fight for democracy. The Australian federal government despatches troops to far off corners of the globe to restore, what most of us think is our right.

Tasmania suffers from tyranny at the hands of a corrupt government, propelled by the fuel of commerce. Depopulation of Tasmania’s north east by 2020, for the installation of massive blue gum plantations, is hidden from the world. Toxic sprays from helicopters are causing deterioration in the health of the community, while infrastructure is being broken down and jobs cut.

Meanwhile, the Rudd Government sells the clean green image of Tasmanian forestry, to large carbon emitters, as a way of evading carbon tax.

Get the DVD and/or the book at

Impacts of plantations for the proposed pulp mill

The expanding area of plantations intended to feed the proposed pulp mill, is already having a major impact on the state.


Plantations lock in water shortages. Over 40 of Tasmania’s 48 water catchments are affected by thirsty plantation trees drawing water out of the ground and lowering the water table. Consumption of water by expanding plantations in the headwaters affects everyone downstream. When plantations exceed 8% of the catchment area, river flow audits show declining water levels particularly during dry summer months as evaporation rates increase (D. Leaman).

Plantations compete for water with irrigators, farmers, domestic consumers and the environmental flows needed to sustain river health. Changes in land use to plantations lock in patterns of water consumption for decades, at a time of declining rainfall from climate disruption. Tax subsidised plantations are taking water that could be used to make Tasmania the food bowl of Australia.

News paper published by TAP Into A Better Tasmania

TAP newspaper

Here is the online copy of the first edition [Summer 09/2010] of TAP's newspaper. You can download a pdf of the four A3 sized pages at the bottom and print off copies.

Its purpose is to detail in newspaper format how the proposed pulp mill, the fourth-largest kraft pulp mill in the world, threatens the health, jobs, lifestyle and investments of the community.

Its publication was made possible by thousands of small donations from the community. You too can make an important contribution to the printing and distribution costs of the next edition. See Donate now top right of the screen for making an online donation or sending a cheque. c/- Treasurer, TAP Into a Better Tasmania, PO Box 392 Launceston 7250. Cheques should be made payable to TAP Inc.


Newspaper contents

Page 1

  • Valley filled with toxic stench?
  • $270million slashed from property values
  • Artificial fogs risk road disasters


Page 2

  • Editorial
  • Letters to the editor
  • Businesses trapped in the foul gas zone


Page 3

  • Net loss of jobs
  • Pulp mill hits all Tasmanians hard
  • Pulp Mill headlines
  • Legal rights removed by Labor-Liberal alliance


Page 4

  • Dismantling Tasmanian democracy
  • Mill not a done deal
  • Hidden $595 million annual costs of the pulp mill
  • Can you trust the government to protect you?
  • Majority oppose mill
  • Plantations means pesticides
  • Take control



TAP does not support any particular politician.

Members of TAP want to protect the community’s health, lifestyles and investments from the proposed pulp mill. TAP also:

  • supports a return to an independent scientific assessment of the pulp mill and all development proposals.
  • is concerned by the on-going conversion of our food-producing land to tree plantations without proper assessment.
  • supports the repeal of Section 11 of the Pulp Mill Assessment Act which takes away the public’s right of appeal.
  • is concerned by the failure of our political ‘representatives’ to represent our interests. The Labor party demands its members in Parliament swear an oath of allegiance to the party and its policy, even if they privately disagree with it.

Potatoes, Pudding and Plonk

Have fun at the "Potatoes, Pudding and Plonk"a fund raising evening to be held at the Windermere Store (Windermere, East Tamar) on Friday 8th January - 6.30pm for 7pm start. Enjoy jacket potatoes (choice of fillings with gluten-free and vegetarian options), salads, dessert, & a glass of wine and great company. Funds raised will contribute to important TAP projects aimed at protecting the community from Gunns' proposed pulp mill in the 2010 election year. There will also be a Lucky Door Prize, and a raffle (please bring a small gift - value up to $10 - as a contribution to the raffle prizes). Wine and soft drinks will be available for purchase. Tickets are $25 per head. Get in early, tickets are limited. Contact either Anne 6328 1231 or Patricia 6328 1384. Tell your friends. Look forward to seeing you there.

Secret meetings

The media stories on ‘secret’ meetings between Gunns and Bob Brown and Wilderness Society were leaked to the media by someone just ahead of Gunns Annual General Meeting 11 November 2009. The stories frame Gunns as conciliatory and willing to talk with opponents. It is more in Gunns’ interest to have leaked the story than the Greens or TWS in order to mitigate a potentially fiery AGM. Further evidence that they cannot be trusted! Gunns proposed a private meeting with Bob McMahon of TAP last month but this was rejected because he knew it would be misused.

TAP media release 6 November 09


Bartlett allowed clearing on pulp mill site when permits had expired

Why has Bartlett allowed work to begin on the pulp mill site when permit concerns were raised with the EPA last July?

TAP Into A Better Tasmania expressed outrage today that community concerns have again been disregarded by Tasmania's State Government.

Questions about the permit conditions for Gunns Ltd's proposed Pulp Mill were raised with the Environmental Protection Authority over three months ago, but continue to remain largely unacknowledged by David Bartlett.