The pulp mill proposed for the Tasmania’s Tamar Valley has been off the front pages for the last few weeks, but that could be about to change.
The Tasmanian government will today deliver two reports: one, the legislatively required assessment of the viability of the project, and a second by ITS Global, consultants to the timber industry.
The first report is the result of the new, narrower set of assessment criteria established after Gunns withdrew from original the Resource Planning and Development Commission (RPDC) process, claiming the indefinite timeline was threatening the viability of the project.
The Tasmanian Government responded by rushing legislation through the parliament which allowed a fast-track assessment of the project. The legislation compelled the government’s report, which has been compiled by Finnish Consultancy Sweco Pic in barely three months.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
In the parliamentary chamber this morning, Crikey understands Lennon spoke about the importance of the pulp mill to Tasmania, saying that without it the Tasmanian economy would be set back by three decades. He then recommended the Gunns pulp mill as a necessity for Tasmania.
The second report, compiled by ITS Global, a timber industry consultancy which has previously supported the work of controversial Malaysian multi-national logging company Rimbunan Hijau, is not required under the legislation. Crikey understands it sets out the “net” social and economic benefits of the project.
Although the reports have just been made public, neither report will be officially tabled in parliament. That’s because the Pulp Mill Assessment Act stipulates that when the Sweco Pic report is tabled, it triggers a provision that both houses of parliament must vote on the project within five sitting days.
Crikey understands the vote will be timed for 21 August, which allows for a decision in a case currently before the Federal Court in which The Wilderness Society and others are seeking to overturn Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s approval of the abbreviated assessment process. That also allows for the Federal Government to state its support or opposition to the project.
According to the Wilderness Society, concerns exist about the adequacy of the reports, in particularly their greatly narrowed scope when compared to the original RPDC process.
As Crikey publishes today, Premier Lennon is locked in a small room with media and other interested parties taking questions on the reports. No recording devices have been allowed into the meeting.