Image for Greens v Greens on Gunns pulp mill. Milne’s question ...

A GROWING split has emerged between conservationists and the Greens over the planned Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania, after the timber company offered at the 11th hour to redesign the project to win green groups’ backing.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke yesterday gave the company a week’s extension on final environmental approvals for the mill in the Tamar Valley outside Launceston after Gunns said it would legally bind itself to improved effluent standards and to use only timber from plantations.

These are key demands of The Wilderness Society and other environment groups, whose support Gunns needs if it is to obtain the Forest Stewardship Council certification demanded by investors.

In return for the green groups’ endorsement of the mill and government compensation, Gunns is willing to surrender its contract rights to 220,000 cubic metres of native forest sawlogs a year.

This would underwrite a final peace deal in Tasmania’s forests, ending 30 years of conflict, by freeing up enough native timber to sustain the existing sawmills while protecting an extra 600,000ha of forests.

The federally appointed forest peace broker, former national union leader Bill Kelty, is seeking to identify within the next week the areas of agreement between the two sides and any remaining barriers to a settlement in a bid to reach a final deal.

But green groups yesterday differed markedly to the Greens party in their response to the Gunns announcement.

TWS, Environment Tasmania and the Australian Conservation Foundation welcomed the Gunns pledge to improve effluent standards and promised to support them if the details released next week matched the commitment.

But Greens MPs, who share government with Labor in Tasmania, insisted Gunns could be not be trusted and stood by their trenchant opposition to the pulp mill unless it was moved from the Tamar, and recycled, rather than released, its liquid waste.

In the Tamar, some residents were concerned the environment groups were preparing to “sell us down the river”.

“It looks as though somebody wants to save some high conservation value forests, but is sacrificing the Tamar Valley to get them,” said mill opponent Peter Cundall. The celebrity gardener, a former ABC personality, said it was obvious Gunns had failed to meet federal standards but had been given a chance by Mr Burke to upgrade to win approval.

TWS national campaign director Lyndon Schneiders told The Australian he was happy to defy the Greens in backing a mill, but only if it ticked three basic requirements - 100 per cent plantation timber, cleaner effluent and community support.

“I’ve got no problem having debates and disagreements with the Greens,” Mr Schneiders said.

“But . . . the Greens are right to point out that the company and the Tasmanian government do not have the trust of the Tasmanian community.”

Phill Pullinger, of Environment Tasmania, said his organisation would not shy away from acknowledging any substantial improvements by Gunns, if borne out by the release of details.

“It is an important precedent for a company to seek tougher environmental controls for its own project, showing the company is heading in a positive direction,” he said. “If we have pushed for a range of environmental problems with the mill to be fixed and they are fixed, then we have to, and we will, acknowledge that.”

Dr Pullinger called on all three political parties, including the Greens, to put politics aside in the interests of achieving a historic agreement that could transform Tasmania.

“To get holistic lasting solution to this conflict you need to have a solution that sticks,” he said.

“To have that, you need the support of environment groups, unions, timber industry bodies, the broader community and all three political parties.

“That’s what we want to see. In past attempts to resolve this, it has become a polarised political issue where parties try to play the community off against each other.

“For the future of this state we are really pushing . . . all political parties to get in behind a solution.”

But the Greens maintained their rage, with Tasmanian senator Christine Milne accusing Gunns of having delayed the process for years.

“It is a corrupted mill,” she told the Senate. “It does not have a social licence to operate and never will have, because the community does not want it there and does not trust this company, having been told so many lies over a long period about what this company will do.”

Senator Milne said it was “unbelievable” that Mr Burke would take the company at its word, and demanded the government publish all Gunns’ material.

“The community is being shut out, and Gunns is being given the benefit of the doubt again, consistent with its delay, delay, delay, undermining of the conditions, and pulling out of the environment assessment processes,” she said.

“This mill will not proceed - regardless of what the minister is saying about this.”

The Greens at state level remain trenchantly opposed to the mill, with leader Nick McKim ...

Read the rest of Matthew Denholm’s article, The Australian, HERE

Christine Milne, Hansard, Download and read or read below:

Tasmanian Pulp Mill
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Thursday, 3 March 2011 THE SENATE 50
Date Thursday, 3 March 2011 Source Senate
Page 50 Proof Yes
Questioner Milne, Sen Christine Responder Conroy, Sen Stephen
Speaker Question No.
Tasmanian Pulp Mill

Senator MILNE (Tasmania) (2.17 pm)—My question
is to the Minister representing the Minister for
Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and
Communities, Senator Conroy. Given that Gunns has
had two years, from 5 January 2009 to 3 March 2011,
to complete all of its documentation for its Tamar
Valley pulp mill project, knowing that a final decision
was to be made on 3 March, why did Minister Burke
concede to the company’s request, made one day
before the deadline, for a delay, on the company’s sayso
that it wanted tougher conditions? Why shouldn’t
the community conclude that the minister has had the
wool pulled over his eyes by a company addicted to
delay, failure to meet deadlines and refusal to adhere
to the original assessment process because it was too
Senator CONROY (Victoria—Minister for
Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on
Digital Productivity)—I thank Senator Milne for that
question. The Australian government is committed
to a comprehensive environmental approval and
monitoring process under the Environment Protection
and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to ensure
matters of national environmental significance are
protected. Former environment minister Malcolm
Turnbull made it a condition of the EPBC Act
approval that Gunns must submit an environmental
impact management plan for approval. To date, 13 of
16 modules of the plan have been approved. On 5
January 2009 the then minister for the environment,
Peter Garrett, set the final date for a decision on
the remaining three modules at 3 March 2011. I can
advise the chamber that yesterday representatives from
Gunns contacted the department and indicated that the
company was seeking tougher environmental controls
than were contained in the original application. This
included tougher controls in relation to the use of
plantation timber by the mill and the use of an
elemental-chlorine-free light bleaching process. The
company further sought that, if approvals were to be
given, they reflect these more stringent environmental
controls. The department needs to assess these
proposed variations for the original pulp mill proposal
and allow the independent expert group to examine
them. The minister expects this process to be complete
and that he will be in a position to consider updated
advice from his department next week. Gunns can
begin construction under the approval conditions but
it cannot operate the mill unless all 16 modules are
approved. (Time expired)
Senator MILNE (Tasmania)—Mr President, I ask a
supplementary question. I did ask why the minister
would believe a company which is committed to delays
and not meeting deadlines and standards, but now that
the minister has delayed his decision for a week will
he immediately make public Gunns’s hydrodynamic
modelling and final modules for community scrutiny
before he makes his decision and will he now go back
and toughen all of the guidelines that Gunns has said
previously it could not meet? If he is going to go
and do what Gunns want, will he now at least let the
community see what is going on? (Time expired)
Senator CONROY (Victoria—Minister for
Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital
Productivity)—The minister understands that Gunns
intends to make the remaining modules and related
studies, including the hydrodynamic modelling of the
pulp mill effluent, available on its website. As to the
other parts of your question, if there is any further
information that I can get from the minister for you, I
will provide it at the earliest opportunity.
Senator MILNE (Tasmania)—Mr President, I ask a
further supplementary question. It is not about whether
the company will make the material available, because
it has not done so to date and clearly will not do it
until after the decision. Will the minister release that
information now so that the community can look at it
before a decision is made? That is the critical question.
Senator CONROY (Victoria—Minister for
Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital
Productivity)—As I said, our understanding is that
Gunns do intend to make the modules and studies
available. As to whether or not the minister intends to
release that information, I indicated that we will take
that on notice and come back to you with any further
information the minister is able to provide.

Tasmanian Pulp Mill
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Thursday, 3 March 2011 THE SENATE 61
Date Thursday, 3 March 2011 Source Senate
Page 61 Proof Yes
Questioner Responder
Speaker Milne, Sen Christine Question No.

Senator MILNE (Tasmania) (3.32 pm)—I move:
That the Senate take note of the answer given by
the Minister representing the Minister for Sustainability,
Environment, Water, Population and Communities (Senator
Conroy) to a question without notice asked by Senator Milne
today relating to the proposed pulp mill.
My question to the Minister representing the Minister
for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and
Communities, Senator Conroy, related to the Gunns
pulp mill in the Tamar Valley in Tasmania. On
5 January 2009 the then Minister for Environment
Protection, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, set
3 March 2011 as the final date for a decision on
the three remaining modules of the environmental
impact management plans submitted by Gunns for
the proposed pulp mill at Bell Bay in Tasmania.
And can you believe it? After two years—one day
before the minister is due to make his decision—Gunns
intervenes and says, ‘Actually, we need more time
because we think the conditions should be tougher.’ So
the minister takes the company at its word and gives it
additional time.
It is unbelievable that the minister would take this
company at its word. This company has done nothing
but delay, delay, delay every single step of the way,
whether it is on assessment or on investment decisions.
I do not know how many times they told the stock
market they were going to have their joint venture
capitalist named and so on and so forth, and it never
happened. Now we are at the point where a company
which pulled out of the original assessment process,
under then Premier Lennon, because it was too rigorous
and they could not meet the requirements and which
corrupted the whole process has told the minister it
wants tougher conditions. Why would anybody believe
Furthermore, this company has put forward a
proposal for a pulp mill that has had so many variations.
One minute it was going to be a plantation based mill
using chlorine-free technology. The next minute it was
going to have native forests and not be chlorine free.
Now it is going to be plantation based and, we are told,
elemental chlorine free, which means chlorine dioxide
and which means there will be organochlorins in the
effluent going into Bass Strait.
What is so disgraceful about what is going on
at the moment is that the community has not been
allowed to see or comment on Gunns’s modules for
hydrodynamic modelling and other data they had to
put in for the management plan. The last time the
community got an opportunity to comment the result
was that Minister Garrett said that Gunns’s information
was not sufficient for him to be able to understand
the full impacts to Commonwealth waters and that he
could not have absolute confidence in the proposed
management and response strategies to protect the
marine environment. He came to that conclusion
because at that point the community had been able to
look at Gunns’s information.
The minister still has not made that available to
the community. Now that the minister has decided to
give Gunns leeway so that it can submit whatever it
wants beyond the deadline, the minister must put this
information up on the internet for the community to
look at. It is simply not good enough to say, ‘We’ve
asked the company and they’ll put it up some time.’
Yes, they will—after the decision is taken, after the
deadline for the community to be able to look at it
and ask, ‘Is this adequate or is it not adequate?’ It is
a complete breach of process that we have a proposed
facility of this size and magnitude and the potential
pollution of Bass Strait and the airshed of the Tamar
Valley. We are now seeing so many variations. The
company has not been required to go back to day one
and put up the final proposal that they want assessed.
This is a corrupted process. It is a corrupted mill. It
does not have a social licence to operate and never will
have, because the community does not want it there
and does not trust this company, having been told so
many lies over a long period of time about what this
company will do. Initially, the pulp mill taskforce, on
which Forestry Tasmania’s Bob Gordon was one of
the leading luminaries, said Gunns would have a stack
so high it would go above the inversion layer. How
ridiculous! That is the kind of misleading information
the community has been given.
Minister, if you are going to give Gunns the chance
of more time, you should tighten the guidelines to
that which they should have been originally and make
that information available to the community now so
that it can assess it and give you feedback before
you make your final decision. It is critical that that
Thursday, 3 March 2011 THE SENATE 62
happen. Instead, the community is being shut out and
Gunns is being given the benefit of the doubt again,
consistent with its delay, delay, delay—undermining
the conditions and pulling out of the environment
assessment processes. This mill will not proceed,
regardless of what the minister is saying about this. In
particular, right now he needs to go out there and give
the community information it needs.
Question agreed to.

“Tasmanian Greens MP Kim Booth says the Labor-Green Government is a ‘dead man walking’ if it further supports the pulp mill.”

Green MP threatens Tas Government over mill

Updated 8:45am Fri 04 Mar 2011

Tasmanian Greens MP Kim Booth is threatening to bring down the state’s Labor-Green Government over the Gunns pulp mill.

The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke has delayed a decision on whether to issue a final permit needed for the mill until next week.

Bass Greens MHA, Kim Booth says he will withdraw support for the Government if it offers to underwrite the project, or seeks to support it in other ways using public money.

“I would no longer have confidence in the government, I would do everything I could to ensure that the government fell on that basis,”
he said.

“Were Lara Giddings, for example, as Premier to provide support for the mill either covertly or overtly by legislation or funding for that project then that government would be a Dead Man Walking because ultimately a no-confidence motion ..I would support a no confidence motion in that government because I could no longer support them,” he said.

In a statement, Premier Lara Giddings says finance for the pulp mill is a matter for Gunns and not the State Government.

Ms Giddings says while she supports the project, she respects that the Tasmanian Greens will have a different view.

Tougher conditions

The Tasmanian timber giant says it wants stricter environmental permits for its $2.5 billion pulp mill, after consulting community and environment groups.

Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has deferred his decision on the mill’s marine modules for a week, to give his department time to consider Gunns’ request.

But Tasmanian Greens spokeswoman Cassy O’Connor is unmoved.

“The bottom line is it’s the wrong mill in the wrong location,” she said.

“We are concerned for Tasmania’s environment and we are concerned for Tasmania’s marine environment and we are hopeful that the Federal Minister will respect these concerns when he makes this decision next week.”

Environment Tasmania’s Phill Pullinger welcomes the news, but is reserving his judgement.

“As to whether or not these are changes that are just going to be tweaking around the edges,” he said.

Tasmania’s forest industry groups hope stricter environmental permits for Gunns’ pulp mill will make the project more attractive to a potential joint venture partner.

The company is yet to announce a financial backer, but Barry Chipman from Timber Communities Australia says the changes to the permit conditions should be viewed positively by potential investors.

“That will be a big green light, we believe, for the financial closure to come very very quick and then we can see the final phase of the journey and that is the development and commissioning of the Bell Bay pulp mill,” he said.

The final Federal assessment is now due next Thursday.

Gunns shares closed at 53.5 cents after a trading halt, down one per cent on the opening.

Gunns spokesman Matthew Horan says the share price was stable after the announcement.

Pulp mill threat by Booth
04 Mar 2011 08:31 AM

REBEL Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth says he will campaign to bring down the Giddings government if further support is given to Gunns’ $2.3 billion pulp mill.

Mr Booth dubbed the government “a dead man walking” if it ignored his threat, and promised to do whatever it took to get Greens and Liberal support for his actions.

“It means that were my party colleagues of the same view, and the Liberals were of the same view, then the government would fall,” Mr Booth said.

“The minute there is any support given to the Gunns project, then my pledge last year to the Governor of stability and confidence will be acted on. The gloves would be off.”

In response, Premier Lara Giddings said last night that there were no plans for taxpayers to underwrite the project.

“The onus is now on Gunns Ltd to obtain finance through a joint venture partner, and that is not an issue for government, that is an issue for the companies involved,” Ms Giddings said.

“I have been clear that the Tasmanian government has not been approached by Gunns to underwrite the project and I don’t expect such a request will be made.

“In saying that, I support the project because I believe it will make an enormous contribution to the Tasmanian economy during difficult economic times. It is also a key part of transitioning the Tasmanian forestry industry out of high conservation value forests and into plantations.”

In an interview yesterday with The Examiner, Mr Booth:

•Said the Wilderness Society would damage its brand and lose support if it offered to trade the mill for native forest protection, as some sections of the society want.

•Slammed Ms Giddings for suggesting the pulp mill was now the cake and not just the icing on the cake - “I mean if that’s the best she can do for Tasmania, then she ought not be in Parliament, let alone be Premier.”

•Said it was improper to seize private property from farmers on behalf of a private company. But he ruled out using his threat of no confidence if Gunns is allowed to use the Dilston bypass easement for its water pipeline.

•Accused the government of knowing how bad the budget was before the last election: “If they didn’t know, they were pathologically incompetent. Of course they knew. They either lied to the electorate or they were pathologically incompetent.”