Image for The Final Nail ... ?

Garry Stannus, writing on Tasmanian Times, first raised these doubts, on Monday: The Permit: Last minute surprise, HERE. Today, Mercury’s Nick Clark has done a fine summation of developments leading to what may be, the final nail in the pulp mill coffin ...

Gunns ‘missed dam deadline’

THE Tasmanian Greens have claimed a “final nail in the coffin” for Gunns Limited’s $2.3 billion pulp mill, saying a permit for a critical dam expired yesterday.

The claim came as anti-pulp mill groups said they would seek an interim court injunction to prevent work on the Bell Bay site.

Under the Pulp Mill Assessment Act, the pulp mill permits would lapse if the project was not “substantially commenced” by yesterday.

However, Greens water spokesman Tim Morris said that, under a separate section, the dam works should have been “substantially completed” by yesterday.

Gunns planned to construct a 670-megalitre dam near the pulp mill site to store water pumped by a 40km pipeline from Lake Trevallyn.

“While I can accept that there may be some debate about the concept of substantial commencement, the concept of substantial completion is far easier to determine,” Mr Morris said.

“It is clear the three relevant parts of the proposal under the Water Management Act (1999) are nowhere near completion, which would require some kind of visible work.”

A Gunns spokesman would not comment on the claim.

However, Primary Industries and Water Minister Bryan Green said Gunns would be able to apply for a new permit under the Water Management Act.

Environment Protection Authority director Alex Schaap said the issue of dam permits did not fall within his regulatory responsibility.

“While I am likely to be the first regulator to be required to determine if a valid permit exists in order to discharge my regulatory responsibilities, my decision on that point may well be challenged and result in a determination being made in a court,” he said.

“It is also possible that the matter could be dealt with by a court or tribunal without my having made a decision.”

Anti-pulp mill organisation TAP spokesman Bob McMahon said the group had sought legal advice on whether Gunns’ permits had expired.

Groups yesterday circulated aerial photos they said showed little change to the 90ha site since it was cleared.

The company has let a $20 million earthworks tender despite not having finance for the project.

It has spent $200 million on the project but its banker, ANZ, will not fund the mill.

Gunns has sold off assets to help slash its debt and clear the way for the project.

Last week it reported a $355 million loss—the biggest in Tasmanian corporate history.

Mercury HERE

• Kim Booth: Minister confirms Gunns dam permits have lapsed

Kim Booth MP
Greens Forestry Spokesman
Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Greens Forestry spokesman Kim Booth will be available to comment on the Primary Industries and Water Minister’s Bryan Green’s confirmation last night that Gunns has not applied to renew its dam permit.

• GUNNS PROJECT IN LIMBO: ATTORNEY GENERAL MUST ACT
Irresponsible to Leave it to Members of the Public to Test

Kim Booth MP
Greens Forestry Spokesman

The Tasmanian Greens today said that with Gunns Tamar Valley pulp now officially in legal limbo, it is time for the Attorney General Brian Wightman to fulfil his responsibilities and seek immediate clarification from a court regarding the project’s permit status.

The Greens Forestry spokesperson Kim Booth said with confirmation by the Primary Industries and Water Minister Bryan Green late yesterday that crucial dam permits for the mill have expired, it is now impossible to construct an operating pulp mill without seeking new permits.

“Nobody including Labor Party and Gunns seems to have any idea what’s happening with the mill permits.  The Attorney General needs to pull his head out of the sand and acknowledge that as the State’s prime Law Officer he has a responsibility to seek advice on how to clarify this critical impasse,” Mr Booth said.

“Not only does Mr Wightman as Attorney General have the legal right to seek an injunction or declaration through the civil courts, he has a responsibility to do so.” 

“Has the Attorney-General sought his own legal advice on his responsibilities?  If not, then he must do so.”

“If Mr Wightman fails to take legal action, it would be a clear abrogation of his responsibilities as the state’s chief law officer.” 

“It is not fair or responsible to leave it up to a concerned member of the public to have to take the necessary court action to get this matter resolved.”

“This would not constitute ‘political interference’ as the Premier Lara Giddings suggested.  This is an issue of whether the pulp mill is now going ahead outside the State Government’s own laws.  By failing to act, he will also be effectively leaving it up to the pulp mill’s opponents to test the legal status of the mill through the courts.”

“Furthermore, it’s not appropriate for Mr Wightman leave the matter in the hands of the Environment Protection Authority, which has no legal authority to make a determination on the issue of ‘substantial commencement’. 

“The Tasmanian public has a right to know whether this mill is actually still going ahead.  Furthermore, the situation is creating uncertainty for Gunns and its shareholders, adding to the company’s already-desperate financial situation,” Mr Booth said.

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Earlier: Mill Permits: Acid on Wightman as Giddings stays silent and flick-passes (includes the Tim Morris MR in full; Pulp The MIll and Code Green MRs: Time’s Up. The Picture is of their banner, unfurled yesterday on the pulp mill site.)