14 March 2007. Gunns withdraws from the independent assessment process for its proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill, saying a November decision was unacceptable. But onlookers claimed the mill was about to fail a host of environmental tests. CEO John Gay:

How can I feel confident that any process is going to deliver an answer while we are spending money every day of the week, every month of the year? We’ve been spending large amounts of money trying to get a project up in Tasmania, and no one can give me any answers.

Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon adds:

Based on the latest indications from the RPDC, of November 2007 at the earliest, a six-month delay imposes an additional cost on the project of approximately $60 million.

15 March 2007. A day later, Premier Lennon dutifully steps in to introduce special legislation into parliament, fast-tracking the project:

We cannot and will not sit on our hands. My Government has unanimously agreed to act decisively and to act now to make sure that we can complete the assessment process of the proposed pulp mill in a timely manner.

27 August 2007. The project is with the Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who will take public submissions until this Friday before turning them over to Dr Jim Peacock, the Chief Scientist of Australia, who will:

…review the relevant scientific issues and provide [Mr Turnbull] with independent advice. He has assembled a panel of expert scientists to assist him…

27 August 2007. Tasmanian parliament will vote on the project this Thursday. Meanwhile Gunns, facing precisely the delays — and perhaps the scrutiny — it was hoping to avoid back in March, is turning up the pressure on the Federal Government. The Mercury writes:

The directors of Gunns Limited have not yet decided if they will support the controversial pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, even if it is approved by the Tasmanian Parliament this week…

The news is the first sign that the seven-member Gunns board is not united firmly behind Mr Gay’s bold and financially risky bid to build a massive pulp mill in the North…

If the federal election already has been declared by the time Dr Peacock’s committee reports back to Mr Turnbull — likely to be early October at the earliest — the protocols of “caretaker government” mode dictate that Mr Turnbull would need to consult Labor’s environment spokesman Peter Garrett before deciding on a joint position…

But Mr Gay has indicated any delay beyond September in Mr Turnbull approving the pulp mill would once again put the entire project in doubt.

Peter Fray

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