AN independent assessment of the Gunns pulp mill could overcome lingering bitterness about its approval, forest peace talk facilitator Bill Kelty has suggested.
In his first public statement about his role Mr Kelty said it would be easy to conclude that no agreement was possible from the peace talks.
He said that any agreement would require the environmental signatories to agree to the Bell Bay pulp mill.
“There are no others [mills] planned that I know of,” he said.
Mr Kelty said the trade-off would be the saving of 572,000ha of high conservation value forest.
He said he had spoken to Gunns’ potential joint venture partners but not to potential financiers.
“It was clearly understood by the signatories that they would support ‘a pulp mill’ but there is clearly now only one proposition available at the moment,” he said.
Mr Kelty said the parties had to discuss the pulp mill to be able to meet the terms of their agreement or some alternative to that agreement.
• ABC Online: Kelty in talks with potential mill partner
Tasmania’s forestry peace deal broker, Billl Kelty, has revealed he has had discussions with a potential joint venture partner for Gunns’ proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.
Mr Kelty is facilitating negotiations between the forestry industry and green groups to end most logging in public native forests.
At his first media conference in the role, Mr Kelty confirmed he had met a possible joint venture partner for the $2.3 billion pulp mill, as part of his role.
“This is so significant that if people have a view, and are a substantive player, then I think it wise to talk to them,” he said.
Mr Kelty refused to be drawn on the progress of the talks but says there is goodwill on all sides.
He says it is up to the State Government to decide whether to make his report public.
He would not reveal the detail but he hinted there was goodwill on all sides to reach an agreement.
“I think it’s very easy to draw the conclusion that there will be no agreement, I think that’s the easiest conclusion,” he said.
“But because it’s the easiest doesn’t mean it’s the right conclusion and what the signatories have said is ‘let’s continue the process’.”
The Premier Lara Giddings says the parties to the forestry talks will have to reach agreement on Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill for the process to work.
Ms Giddings has told ABC Local Radio it’s possible the talks will fail.
• Senator Christine Milne
Tasmania sells out Tamar wineries as WA moves to protect Margaret River wine region
Just as the Tasmanian government has sold out the tourism and fine foods and wines industries in the Tamar Valley, the EPA in WA this week has rejected a coal mine 15km from Margaret River wine region to protect the area’s social fabric.
“WA Premier Colin Barnett said last year that whilst his government was pro mining and predevelopment, he recognised there was a potential conflict of interest between a mine and the character of Margaret River.
“Local residents have opposed the underground mine because of concerns about ground water contamination and the loss of reputation.
“Why is it that the WA Premier can see the importance of Margaret River to WA tourism and wine industries and Tasmania’s Premier Lara Giddings cannot see the same conflict of interest between a huge polluting, stinking pulp mill and the Tamar Valley wine industry?
“The Tamar Valley has thirty wineries on its wine route and many more businesses dependent on the half a million visitors who visit the Tamar Valley each year. Furthermore the Tamar Valley wineries are a critical component of Tasmania’s fine wine state branding,” Greens Deputy Leader, Christine Milne said today.
The WA EPA said,
“Even though some of the significant impacts, or risks, may be presented as being manageable because of their low probability of occurring, the environmental consequences of some low probability event may be so serious, widespread or irreversible that the proposal taken as a whole, on balance, presents unacceptable risks to important environmental values, and thus makes the proposal environmentally unacceptable.”
“Rotten egg gas stench, organochlorines into Bass Strait, noise above the set limits, and log trucks on the roads are not manageable or of low probability, these are real impacts and high risks and make the pulp mill environmentally unacceptable by the same logic, if the planning process is not corrupted.
“Just as Western Australians think that Margaret River is worth fighting for, Tasmanians think that the Tamar Valley must be protected,” Senator Milne concluded.
Download: The AFR story on the Margaret River mine rejection:
Huon Valley Environment Centre is conducting a walk in on logging operations at West Wellington.
15 Conservationists have today walked in to an old growth logging area in the West Wellington region of Tasmania’s southern forests.
“These forests that are being logged every day in the West Wellington were started during the three month phase out period from December to March. If the State Government had acted to implement a progressive moratorium and no new logging roads were permitted after the 15 December, these high conservation value forests would have been saved,” Huon Valley Environment Centre’s Jenny Weber said.
“Conservation values of the forests that the community has walked in to today, include endangered species habitat and water catchment for the Judds Creek community. The ongoing loss of unique old growth forests is due to the State Government prioritising timber barons with wood supply security rather than rural communities who are asking for their livelihoods, health and environment are protected,” Jenny Weber said.
• Matthew Denholm, The Australian: Make mill deal or lose, Bill Kelty tells greens
FORESTRY peace broker Bill Kelty has warned that green groups must strike a deal on the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill - or miss out on the permanent protection of 565,000 hectares of native forests.
The former union leader, appointed to “facilitate” a negotiated peace between loggers and green groups, also yesterday warned that Gunns should submit to a new, independent mill assessment.
Stepping up pressure for a compromise, Mr Kelty said there had to be agreement on a plantation-fed mill to allow Gunns to exit native-forest logging and free up enough wood to allow an industry transition out of old forests.
“That is almost the biggest game in town in terms of getting an industry settlement together with an environmental settlement,” he said.
“A proposal by Gunns to have a pulp mill at Bell Bay in the Tamar Valley is the only essential proposition that is on the table.”
However, he revealed all sides to the historic talks - unions, industry and green groups - now backed the appointment of an independent person to assess whether the mill met environmental guidelines.
Gunns has been strongly resisting the move, arguing it has already secured full state and federal approvals, but managing director Greg L’Estrange yesterday began a round of further talks with Mr Kelty.
Mr Kelty said it was “easy to conclude that there will be no agreement” due to ongoing differences on the $2.3 billion pulp mill.
However, his interim report, to be passed to state and federal governments by week’s end, would recommend that the talks to find a solution to 30 years of conflict continue.
The two substantive issues to be decided were a logging moratorium with agreed security of wood supply - and the pulp mill.
The moratorium was agreed earlier this month, temporarily protecting 565,000ha of high conservation value forests from logging, while allowing up to 12,000ha to be harvested.
Only the mill remained unresolved, he said. However, peak group, Environment Tasmania, yesterday said that while green groups had an “open mind” about a new independent assessment, they remained opposed to the mill.
Mr Kelty expressed “uncertainty” about Gunns’ “economic position” and confirmed he had held talks with potential joint venture partners for the project.