The failure to stop the Bell Bay Pulp Mill is a big loss for the Greens – and wholly deserved. Bob Brown’s comments on the Mill’s approval – “this environmentally evil company will continue to log 200,000 hectares”– show why.

Note the verb “continue”. The Mill’s operation will not alter the existing rules on forestry in Tasmania – it will work within them. The Green anti-Mill campaign was aimed at those rules. The Greens want them changed because they allow forestry to continue. Setting up the Mill will make changing them harder.

Those rules, laid down in the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement (RFA), are world’s best environmental practice. Biodiversity is protected through large-scale conservation and old-growth forest can expand. The environmental values of Tasmanian forestry are protected into perpetuity.

The Greens simply don’t want any forestry in Tasmania. The landscape in Tasmania should look how they prefer it, regardless of any impact on livelihoods. If the 1600 jobs and 2.5 percent extra GDP the Mill will generate in Tasmania are lost, too bad. The Greens are entitled to their view, but with no more than 20 percent of the vote in Tasmania and 9 percent nationally, they are not entitled to force it on the rest of the community.

Most Tasmanians support forestry. The RFA is currently under review. A mere 27 public submissions have been received. Compare this to the 800 received on the Pulp Mill in the State assessment process and the 36,000 submissions to Malcolm Turnbull’s review process.

The environmental issues were grossly exaggerated in the campaign. Dioxin emissions into Bass Strait became the focus of the Federal assessment process. Yet the dioxin levels generated by the proposed technology are so low that regulators in Scandinavia – arguably world leaders in clean pulp mill technology – don’t even set standards for those emissions.

Bob Brown said the Mill will accelerate climate change. In fact the Mill relies significantly on renewable energy and will contribute positively to reducing global warming.

Green groups seem to think they can say what they like in anti-forestry campaigns. At least Tasmanians cans stand up for themselves. Pity the impoverished communities in Papua New Guinea, where Greens also want to stop forestry. Greenpeace asserts that most logging there is illegal (it isn’t) and the Australian Conservation Foundation even claims that forestry fosters gun running. If forestry were stopped in PNG, 10,000 jobs and two percent of GDP would be lost. But at least PNG would look how they think it should.

ITS Global was commissioned by the Tasmanian Government to review the economic and social benefits of the Pulp Mill at Bell Bay. This report was tabled in Tasmanian parliament by Premier Paul Lennon.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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