The following was written for the largely Mainland readers of crikey.com and a person called Glen Davies who cannot spell and who thinks Cassy is a man - most readers of TT will know my views backwards!
As someone who has worked in kraft pulp mills for nearly three decades and also someone who was appointed by the now defunct Tasmanian Resource Planning and Development Commission in early 2006 to lead the technological assessment of Gunns’ Pulp Mill proposal, I wish to applaud Cassy O’Connor’s excellent rebuttal (HERE) of Stephen Mayne’s two-hour assessment (HERE) of this proposal.
Because most readers of Crikey.com will be Mainlanders (as am I), it is worth noting that the Tasmanian State Government must be counted as the most debauched (please look up the real meaning of this word in your dictionary - I use it advisedly) of any Australian State Government since Joh Bjelke Petersen went back to his peanut farm.
I was forced to resign from the Tasmanian RPDC by the incompetent actions of former Premier Paul Lennon, as was my boss, the Director of the RPDC, Julian Green. Anyone on the Mainland of Australia who thinks that Gunns’ proposal has received a thorough environmental and economic assessment at the hands of the Tasmanian and Australian Governments is seriously mis-informed.
Yes, it would be economically, socially and environmentally beneficial if a professional, well-run, technologically experienced company built a totally chlorine-free, bleached kraft pulp mill somewhere in South-Eastern Australia to add value to all of the plantation blue gums that have been planted by ill-advised MIS schemes.
However, that company is not Gunns, and that somewhere is not the Tamar Valley. The proposed site is at Long Reach - 6 kilometres south of the Bell Bay Industrial Estate (and Miss Davies’ aluminium smelter) in what was once a declared buffer zone established to protect the residents of the Tamar Valley from the pollutants emitted from heavy industry.
Since 2007 I have been on the public record as saying that the Tamar Valley is possibly the worst place in Tasmania to site what would be the world’s fourth largest kraft pulp mill. I stand by that statement today. Kraft pulp mills stink - ask any resident of Tumut in NSW, or Traralgon in Victoria. Kraft mills need to be built in areas well away from domestic dwellings in areas with good atmospheric wind flows, not in a valley that already ‘boasts’ air quality on a par with that in Sydney.
Gunns have claimed for 6 years now that their mill will not stink - if achieved it would be a world first from the world’s least experienced pulp company. Asked repeatedly over two years by the RPDC to provide details of how they planned to achieve their remarkable world first, Gunns failed to provide an adequate answer.
This was just one of many reasons why the RPDC attempted to judge the proposal ‘critically non-compliant’ in a draft letter to Gunns’ former CEO. But that attempt was thwarted by an equally debauched Secretary of the Tasmanian Department of Premier and Cabinet, and her Premier, the one and only Paul Lennon, who took the project out of the RPDC’s hands the next day, abolished the RPDC and pushed an Act giving State approval to the project through a state parliament filled with some of the most lack-lustre party hacks in Australia’s political history.
The MPs did this on the strength of a highly compromised technical report written by a Finnish company that works hand in glove with the proposed supplier of major equipment to the project. (You people on the Mainland who grumble about your state and territory governments don’t know how well off you are!)
And if, as is likely, Gunns do not achieve a stink-free mill, the residents of the Tamar Valley will suffer headaches, nausea and increased incidence of asthma for the next hundred years - the normal lifetime of a large pulp mill. Relaxing outdoor Sunday BBQs will become a thing of distant memory. Any of you who think that our Commonwealth Government would not approve a sub-standard project should think again. Australia is not a nation - it is a loose amalgamation of six squabbling, former British colonies (and two Commonwealth territories) in which our national Government has no jurisdiction over the pollutants going into the air over anywhere other than the ACT and the Northern Territory.
So all the Chief Scientist and his panel who reviewed the proposal under the Commonwealth EPBC Act could do is look at the potential effects of water-borne pollutants in Commonwealth waters of Bass Strait, migratory birds and animals, but absolutely nothing about the health and well-being of people up to 55 km from the proposed mill site who may, according to the RPDC, be adversely affected by the mill.
These same people cannot even sue Gunns if they are affected, because Paul Lennon and his merry men and women, in conjunction with Gunns’ own legal advisers who helped draft the Approval Bill, that was subsequently enacted by the Tasmanian Parliament, withdrew the common law right of ordinary people to sue the Mill owner for damages. Yes, right here in our southernmost State we have a rogue government that is acting entirely in the interests of a single public company contrary to the wishes (at last count) of 71% of its citizens who would be happy with a totally chlorine free, 100% plantation timber fed kraft pulp mill that complies with RPDC standards somewhere other than the Tamar Valley. And this is not Nimbyism - it is simply common sense. In this case, The Law, is not only an ass, it is a complete and utter shambles.
Fortunately, the mill is unlikely to be built. The same lack of professionalism by Gunns’ senior management that prevented them answering the RPDC’s simple questions has led to Gunns’ share price dropping from a 2006 high of around $4.50 to lows under 20c.
In order to raise the necessary $2.8 billion needed to build this mill, Gunns have spent about two years courting potential overseas joint venture partners, including some of Sweden’s most environmentally sound pulp and paper companies.
Company after company has looked at the quality of Gunns people and the staunch resistance of people living around the mill site and have walked away.
I know why.
I am a scientist with over 30 years experience of kraft pulping technology and kraft pulp mills and the present proposal is a no brainer - only a person with no brains would spend $2.8 billion putting a kraft mill where it will cause never-ending problems.
For the record, I have never been unemployed since leaving university and I have never been a member of the Greens political party. Stephen Mayne has fallen down very badly in his assessment. And Ms Glen Davies would add far more weight to her arguments if she could learn to spell the Queen’s English before submitting them.