Environment Minister Tony Burke is expected to hand down his decision today on the final marine impact assessment of Gunns’ planned Tamar Valley pulp mill. Tasmanian Times already has published documents relating to this assessment:
These documents were released under FOI rules and are in the public domain as information in the public interest.
The documents date around 2008, however, they are still in play, and very current, as they mainly relate to the final module for approval for the proposed pulp mill, which is likely to be approved under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) in the next month or so.
These documents describe Gunns’ alterations to the final plan, their proposed marine pollution monitoring and management, pollution trigger levels and other issues.Some of these documents have been heavily censored.
As they have been released into the public domain, these documents have been released on Tasmanian Times for the public. These documents show the final position of Gunns on some issues, and the state-of-play for the final marine assessment.
Read the documents here: Revealed: The Gunns plans
Senator Christine Milne
Burke Must Release Gunns Pulp Mill Data
Minister Burke is denying the Tasmanian public natural justice by refusing to release critical data about the pollution of Bass Strait before making his decision on the adequacy of Gunns hydrodynamic modelling and management plan, the Australian Greens said today.
“It is not good enough to say that it is up to Gunns to release the information. The community deserves the right to evaluate the accuracy of Gunns claims before the Minister makes his decision,” said Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne.
“Tasmanians remember that former Minister Garrett rejected the original Gunns hydrodynamic modelling and assessment of the proposed pulp mill’s impacts on the Commonwealth marine environment because the information was not sufficient for him to be able to understand the full impacts on Commonwealth waters.
“Minister Garrett said at the time he could not have absolute confidence in the proposed management response strategies to protect the marine environment.
“How can the public have faith in Minister Burke’s decision when he has not released the information now submitted by Gunns, which last time was found to be so wanting?
“It is hard to escape the conclusion that neither the Minister nor Gunns want scrutiny of the data before the decision is taken.
“Why didn’t the Minister talk to the 7000 workers employed in the Bass Strait fishing industry worth $300 million a year to the Tasmanian economy?
“Minister Burke should give the community the chance to comment before he makes a final decision.
“Thankfully, unlike the closely guarded assessment in the Minister’s office, Environment Tasmania has already released an independent impact statement that found up to 51 gigalitres of industrial effluent will be released from the Mill every year.
“To give this some perspective, Sydney Harbour has a volume of just ten times that amount. This equates to a massive amount of industrial effluent from one factory that poses too great a risk for the Tamar environment and economy.”
Download: The Environment Tasmania report: ET_TVPM_marine_23022011.pdf
First published: 2011-03-03 06:05 AM
UPDATES: THURSDAY, Mar 4:
ABC Online: Gunns wants ‘tougher controls’: decision delayed
The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has extended the deadline making a decision on the proposed Tasmanian pulp mill by another week.
The decision was due to come today.
Mr Burke says the Gunns company contacted his department yesterday asking for tougher environmental controls.
He says another week is needed to examine the changes the company has requested.
The Chief Executive of Tasmania’s Forest Industries Association, Terry Edwards says he is confident the pulp mill will meet the Federal guidelines.
“One more tiny step in a seven year sojourn,” he said.
“But one can only hope that we are inching ever closer to the approval and final implementation of this project for Tasmania.”
Gunns has called a trading halt on the stock exchange.
What Tony Burke said:
The Hon. Tony Burke MP
Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
STATEMENT ON TASMANIAN PULP MILL
On 5 January, 2009 the then Minister for the Environment Peter Garrett set March 3, 2011 as the final date for a decision on the three remaining modules of the environmental impact management plan submitted by Gunns for the proposed pulp mill at Bell Bay, Tasmania.
Today I am extending that deadline for a further week until March 10, 2011.
Yesterday, representatives from Gunns contacted my department and indicated that the company was seeking tougher environmental controls than were contained in the original application.
The company further sought that these more stringent environmental controls be incorporated with the other decisions I am to make on the environmental impact management plan.
My department needs to assess these proposed variations to the original pulp mill proposal and allow the Independent Expert Group to examine these variations.
I expect these processes will be complete, and I will be in a position to consider updated advice from my department, next week.
What Christine Milne says: “Since he has given the company an additional week to put its case, Minister Burke should also immediately make available Gunns’ hydrodynamic modelling and management plan for the community to scrutinise before next week. “How unfair would it be to allow Gunns to fiddle with the conditions but stop the community from having a look at what they want?”
BURKE’S DELAY ON PULP MILL PERMITS BRIEF REPRIEVE FOR MARINE ENVIRONMENT
Greens Won’t be Fobbed Off by Company’s Calls for ‘Tougher Environmental Controls’
Cassy O’Connor MP
Greens Environment and Coastal Protection spokesperson
The Tasmanian Greens today said that while Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke’s one week delay on determining the fate of the three remaining permits for the Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill proposal is a welcome reprieve for the marine environment, Tamar Valley residents, and the Tasmanian seafood industry, the ultimate decision still needs to be one to reject the project.
Greens Environment and Coastal Protection spokesperson Cassy O’Connor MP said that there are serious and growing concerns over the acknowledged scientific uncertainty about the risks posed to ecosystems and fisheries.
Ms O’Connor also urged Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke MP to release publicly Gunns Ltd’s submission and hydrodynamic modelling along with the associated documentation before finalising his decision on the remaining modules.
“The bottom line is that Gunns’ pulp mill data has been repeatedly found to be seriously deficient, and the community can only presume this situation remains the same, especially given Minister Burke’s failure to release the information upon which he has just delayed announcing a decision,” Ms O’Connor said.
“A recently released Environment Tasmania independent assessment that each year up to 51 gigalitres of industrial effluent from the mill will be released into Bass Strait, indicates the extent of the direct threat that the mill would present to our pristine beaches, community recreational pursuits, as well as recreational and commercial fisheries.”
“This delay is a reprieve for our precious marine environment, for the people of the Tamar Valley who have had this project hanging over their heads for many years, and for our seafood industry which is worth over $300 million each year. This uncertainty and stress over Gunns’ pulp mill proposal have gone on far too long.”
“The Tasmanian community and environment deserve certainty and they deserve protection. Minister Burke must reject these permits next week,” Ms O’Connor said.