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Environment

Nov 2, 2011

Mayne: Gunns believes pulp mill approval is inevitable -- as it should be

Tasmanian forestry giant Gunns is working flat stick on its $2.3 billion pulp mill project. While the mainstream media has left the impression the project will fall over, there is a sense of inevitability on site that it will ultimately be delivered.

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Tasmanian forestry giant Gunns is working flat stick on its $2.3 billion pulp mill project. A visit to the site yesterday revealed at least 20 trucks and 50 blokes beavering away on an enormous earth works exercise.

While the mainstream media has left the impression the project will fall over, there is a sense of inevitability on site that it will ultimately be delivered.

The company is in final negotiations with an offshore joint venture partner and, when this is announced, the share price is expected to recover, especially if the cash injection allows Gunns to completely repay its $400 million-plus debt.

The Gunns AGM has been shifted to Melbourne for the first time this year, which has sparked accusations from Green opponents that it is seeking to avoid scrutiny.

CEO Greg L’Estrange is offshore negotiating the JV but is aiming to have details released in time for an extensive discussion at the AGM.

The media has made much of legal threats by a couple of groups attempting to have a court declare that Gunns has breached its permit by not satisfying the “substantial commencement” requirement.

Having invested and capitalised more than $200 million of shareholder funds on the project so far, it would be extraordinary if politicians allowed it to fall over on a technicality. Indeed, the many hundreds of suffocating permit conditions have themselves been a bizarre display of business strangling red tape by bureaucrats in Hobart and Canberra.

While Tasmania desperately needs the pulp mill, Gunns really should be commended for embracing sustainable practices and shedding its old growth and re-growth logging practices.

The evidence of this change is clear when you visit the pulp mill site on the Tamar river where Gunns and the old North Broken Hill Ltd used to run neighbouring timber milling plants.

When Gunns bought North Forest Products for $385 million in 2000, it merged the operations and cut a lot of jobs as it entered a golden period of profit growth and strong share price performance.

Only one of those timber mills was still operating at the start of this year, but it was then closed in April as part of the company’s painful move to plantation timber supply.

And this mothballed timber mill is the key to why Tasmania needs the pulp mill, which will be the biggest investment in its history.

The Tasmanian economy is struggling. The public sector has been living high on the hog for many years and, after a $100 million bond issue almost failed during the GFC, the politicians were finally jolted into action. Even with a Labor-Greens coalition government, there are now daily stories about public sector cutbacks in education and health.

Indeed, yesterday’s Launceston Examiner revealed that 10 jobs were being axed from an aged care home in Perth near Launceston because the state government refused to assist with funding.

Tasmanian Greens MP Kim Booth still publicly argues against the pulp mill but many of the other Green activists have exited the field, satisfied with their win over Gunns courtesy of the shift to 100% plantation timber. Even the Wilderness Society privately agrees that Tasmania needs more economic activity to sustain its bloated public sector.

After spending more than two hours on site and discussing the issues with company executives yesterday, I’m more convinced than ever over the merits of the pulp mill.

The Bell Bay region is the major industrial hub in Tasmania with Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelter and BHP’s manganese smelter. It is in no way comparable to Cradle Mountain or Freycenet National Park. Indeed, with abundant access to water and timber it is the perfect location nationally to value add to Australia’s bulging stocks of plantation timber.

The MIS tax-driven schemes led to enormous over-investment in plantations and prices have plunged with the collapse of Timbercorp and Great Southern and the withdrawal of the ongoing tax subsidies. But the wood is still out there growing and if investors are going to salvage anything from their investment then a viable world-scale pulp mill is exactly what is needed.

The pulp mill also has a strong environmental story to tell. The plant will generate 90mW of additional base load power for Tasmania which will allow the state’s hydro assets to be more effectively deployed to the mainland for peak periods of power demand when prices are high.

One of the last remaining issues is labour productivity on the site. The CFMEU, led by Julia Gillard’s former partner and long-time political mentor Michael O’Connor, is looking for an exclusive single site closed shop arrangement.

While O’Connor has arguably done more than anybody in securing reforms to Tasmania’s logging industry, the ongoing disasters and losses of Victoria’s desalination project loom large. Leighton is head contractor for Gunns and it is understandably nervous about achieving sensible work practices that everyone can afford.

And with Gunns shares through the floor, investors are hoping the mill could be delivered for less than $2 billion, something which should be an outside chance given the strong Australian dollar has made importing the key equipment from Europe that much cheaper.

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42 comments

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42 thoughts on “Mayne: Gunns believes pulp mill approval is inevitable — as it should be

  1. Jim Reiher

    “After spending more than two hours on site and discussing the issues with company executives yesterday, I’m more convinced than ever over the merits of the pulp mill.”

    You know: I am not sure I would be so strongly defending this particular company after 2 hours of meetings with their spin doctors … I mean … company executives….

    Maybe Gunns has transitioned into a modern, eco-friendly, caring company… maybe….

    But maybe they are not quite as angelic as this article describes. They have had a horrid history and have seemed determined to resist change at every turn… up to now apparantly….

    hmmm… I still remain sceptical. But open to hearing more….

    Have they really switched to 100% plantation timber? If so, I will agree that is a very positive action.

  2. Bo Gainsbourg

    There is a basic and quite reasonable set of requests that people have put to Gunns over the years:
    – source your product from the overabundant mature plantation resources that already exists and stopping woodchipping outstanding native forests.
    -use world’s best clean technology for your pulp mill.
    -site the mill in any one of many suitable spots that is not the current site opposed by residents.
    If they did that they would get support, and its not much to ask from a company that has benefited from millions and millions of dollars of taxpayer largesse in different forms over the years. This is possibly not information you will hear from 2 hours on site with Gunns CEOs however. Strange as that may seem. Looking forward to the results of Stephen’s two hours at alternative sites with leading members of the Wilderness Society for the next installment.

  3. Bo Gainsbourg

    By the way, you will find that all, yes all the major progressive reforms to the Tasmanian forest industry have either been driven by the environment groups or the Greens. In fact go back to around 1995 and you will find that the economic analysis completed by the environment groups and Greens has been completely vindicated, despite being extensively derided at the time. In that period the CFMEU was derisive of the same analysis, to which they are now actually having to adjust having been mugged by reality. Pity in the meantime many jobs disappeared, not through protection of forest, but through ongoing industry collapse. Its great that the CFMEU and O’Connor are coming to grips with this finally, hopefully it will help more workers get jobs in a sustainable plantation based industry. But really, simply reverting to a formulaic dismissal of the environment groups position, when its been proven right time and again over the last 30 years, is lazy analysis.

  4. Liz45

    I’m against the Pulp Mill. I’m disgusted that Gunns wrote the Labor Govt’s Legislation. I abhor the potential danger to Bass Strait, winemakers etc, not to mention the tourism industry. Stuff up Tasmania and what will that do to the economy? We should be using money to recycle paper; save native forests and not add to Co2 emissions. The so-called ‘guarantees’ re the environment are a sham!

    The people of Tasmania don’t want the Pulp Mill! Gunns has already received in excess of $32 million in recent times as ‘compensation’ for not cutting down native forests? How disgraceful!

    The Styx area is a real shambles – it’s just disgraceful. These cowboys don’t give a hoot about the future – they just want money now at any cost! They’ve had it too good for too long!

    They won’t be happy until the last bloody tree is lying on its side – then what?

    Stephen, I suggest you fly to Tasmania and have a conversation with Peter Cundall, wine growers, people with horses, farmers, hospitality people, tourism, Wilderness Society etc.

    You should be ashamed of yourself. If you were doing an assignment at School or Uni, you’d be bawled out for your narrow ‘research’? I expected more from you!

  5. mattsui

    This article dosen’t contain Mayne’s usual footnote about shareholder advocacy etc.
    Are we to assume that SM is not one of the Gunns investors salivating at the prospect of a pulp mill phoenix?
    You wouldn’t know it from this article. I agree with Bo G that the location issue is still unaddressed and ought still to be a deal breaker for any conservationist worth the label.
    I would add that a very large amount of the Great Southern and Timbercorp holdings are in the South West of Western Australia….. not very practical when your pulp mill is in Tassie.

  6. davidk

    Stephen has been supportive of the mill before on economic grounds but has very little to say about the environmental impacts. Is the mill to be world’s best practice now? It wasn’t before and I don’t trust anything Gunns says.

  7. Ruth Groom

    That 90mW of base load power will come from burning native forest…or have Gunns altruistically handed back their wood supply agreement? They will just burn it instead of pulping it to get around the “plantation only” legislation. There are so many elements that have NOT been assessed in this project – airborne n0.1 particulates (highly carcinogenic in an area already suffering high rates of respiratory disease due to the inversion layer over the valley holding in pollution). Marine effects on a tidal estuary – they did hydro dynamic modelling but ONLY FOR COMMONWEALTH WATERS – not for the Tamar River which is a biodiversity hotspot – just to name two. Also that site you visited used to be an environmental buffer zone to protect the residents of George Town – I guess a few more deaths won’t matter there. How naive of you to swallow Gunns’ spin – they must have bought you a damn nice lunch!

  8. Liz45

    @DAVIDK – From what I’ve read, the proposed Pulp Mill is not world’s best practice. Further, SM hasn’t acknowledged the amount of polluted water and god knows what else that will go into Bass Strait on a daily basis. This is just one of the appalling environmental travesties being considered – the overall fact of Gunns writing the rules is just appalling.

    I’m still not convinced that we need such a Pulp Mill? Why? Why go down this path and emit so many toxins into the environment without even justifying the need?

    I’m with you re trusting Gunns – in fact, trust and gunns in the one sentence? Hardly!

    Does Gunns have the financial backing? I haven’t read that they have? I think there should be a Royal Commission into this fiasco – perhaps alongside CSG? Another travesty!

  9. Michael Harvey

    Totally disagree with Stephen Mayne on this one. The infrastructure costs alone will bankrupt the state, let alone the stupidity of manufacturing paper. A huge White Elephant. Thanks Gunns.

  10. mattsui

    Currently Great Southern and Timbercorp logs – Hybrid varieties of the fast growing Tasmanian blue gum species – are chipped in the harbour of King George Sound in Albany WA and shipped to Japan for paper processing.
    While this is an eminently practical process it is not without it’s negative outcomes. Primarily transport cost and associated pollution. Also damage to the marine envorinment due to runnof from the chipping process, clouding the waters and stunting the growth of local fish species including the legendary King George Whiting. This damage is caused by the tanins contained in the wood itself. No chemicals are added during the chipping process. I shudder to think how much more damage could be done by adding bleaching to the process.
    A pulp mill in Tasmania will do nothing to reduce the Transport costs and can only create haedaches for local communities – animal, plant and human communities.
    p.s. is Mayne a Gunns shareholder or not?

  11. Smithee

    This paen to the the pulp mill reads like a feature story by a cadet journalist. But, being a cadet they have missed all the issues that are at the heart of the opposition to the mill.

    Here’s just a few:
    – The mill was found to be “critically non-compliant” by the Tasmanian Resource Planning and Development Commission, so was hurriedly taken out of that process by the government and given special protection. For many, the special legislation and cash handouts are at the heart of the issue. The issue of government corruption and failure to follow due process whenever a pet project needs help

    – The Tamar valey suffers from a severe invesuon layer effect. This is what has made the air of neighbouring Launceston among the most severaly affected by wood smoke for many years. The wonderful extra power referred to in the article will be generated from burning wood waste and will equal 100,000 wood heaters – more than doubling the current wood smoke pollution problem

    – The inversion layer will also trap the noxious fumes that emanate from every pulp mill. The Tamar Valley will literally reek of rotten eggs

    – The Tamar Valley is becoming a premier wine producing and tourim zone. Again the foul smelling, snoke belching, dioxin-dumping mill will put an end to all other significant economic activity in the valley

    – Finally, surveys have time and again shown that the local population do not want the mill in the Tamar valley. Seems the will of the people doesn’t count for much these days, but surely it can’t be entirely forgotten?

    – The site which is almost universally approved as superior is New Hampire in Tasmania’s north-west. Again, surveys show this would have almost universal approval by the community. But Gunns & the Labor Govt have already decided on the Tamar valley and their attitude on all matters related to community concerns remains: who cares, we want it here.

    So cadet Mayne, we’ve decided to spike your little corporate cuddle feature. Please do some research and write a more balanced article.

  12. davidk

    It appears nothing has changed since the mill was scuttled by Mr Cousins and I condemn any attempt to refloat it.

  13. Stephani Taylor

    Tasmania does NOT desperatley need a pulp mill, it needs sustainable and sensible development. One company with a monopoly over the forestry sevtor is not advisable. Especially a company with such dubious business practices. This company currently owes millions to various contractors let alone what it owes to the banks and other financial institutions.
    The only reason that Gunns got out of native forest is because it is currently pursuing Forest Stewardship Council accreditation, they need FSC to be able to onsell their products.
    It highly unlikely to succeed since it cannot get the necessary “social licence” from the Tasmanian community. Tasmanians will never accept a pulp mill that is only 1km from many residential homes, and thriving farms, vineyards, orchards and tourism ventures. A number of community groups and environmental groups are strongly opposed to this venture, and committed to stopping its construction.
    Ordinary, everyday citizens who would not normally put themselves on the front line, have been prepared to be arrested in their opposition to the project. There are many more who are willing to risk arrest for peacefully protesting because of so many valid concerns the project will seriously pollute and contaminate our water, our air quality, our environment, and our existing robust economy.
    This Pulp Mill threatens to destroy the health and wellbeing of individuals, as well as the many existing, successful businesses that operate in the region.
    Gunns’ proposed Pulp Mill is a flawed model – both economically and environmentally. The Tamar Valley is a completely inappropriate location for such a development given the geological characteristics of the area that can already pose serious health risks for those in the 100,000 plus Tamar Valley community who are susceptible to respiratory problems.
    Gunns has failed to secure a guaranteed water supply for the project, and continues to be denied access to build the necessary water pipeline, by a number of land owners steadfastly opposed to the project.

    Please read the Dossier from Friends of the Tamar Valley – http://tasmaniantimes.com/images/uploads/FTV_Dossier_(20_8_10).pdf

    and look at the websites of Friends of the Tamar Valley – http://ftv.org.au/

    Pulp the Mill – http://www.pulpthemill.org

    and TAP – http://www.tapvision.info/

    you may find a few more facts than the biased ones you have been given by Gunns

  14. Steve Proctor

    The Crikey invitation banner proclaims “no spin” but Stephen’s comments leave me dizzy!

    One would hope that he would have challenged Gunns’ claims – for example, just how and where have they spent $200 million to date?

    Why do forest industry insiders say they know (and Gunns knows) the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill cannot be supplied from the plantation resource? What will happen if this is the case?

    Has Stephen examined the business plan for the Tamar ValleyPulp Mill? Can it ever be profitable given that Gunns may not be able obtain FSC supply chain certification to make its product acceptable to the world market?

    Will the claimed benefits, even allowing for exaggerated employment and flow-on forecasts, offset the cost of the loss of hundreds of jobs, business failures, timber mill closures and the chaos caused throughout the Tasmanian forest industry – to a large extent the legacy of Gunns CEO Greg L’Estrange’s “bet the rent” pursuit of a reported million dollar payday for getting a project started.

    Come on Stephen, why don’t you ask some of these questions?

  15. michael r james

    I would be more likely to believe this scenario if Richard Flanagan was in agreement. I do not know what he thinks of the current situation though he wrote that it had promise now that Robin Gay (and John Gray, Paul Lennon) are out of the picture; and that the “forest contractors said to Eric Abetz two weeks ago, stay out of it”.

    Only a year ago Flanagan wrote this devastating rebuttal to Miranda Devine’s nonsense, which gives a very good summary of the whole sordid history. I give a tiny extract which puts to rest one of the big lies about Gunns: that they employed a lot of Tasmanians and brought wealth to the state.

    [(abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2988478.htm)
    20 AUGUST 2010
    Miranda’s Gunns melodrama is just a lie
    RICHARD FLANAGAN

    After the retrenchments and closures of the last few years, the figure (full time workers) today would be considerably less, under 5,000 — or just over 2 per cent of Tasmania’s workforce of 237,000 working Tasmanians.

    Unlike the mining industry, woodchipping doesn’t create jobs. It sheds jobs. Unlike the mining industry, the woodchipping industry doesn’t create wealth for government. It takes wealth from taxpayers. Dr Graeme Wells, an economist from the University of Tasmania, has calculated that the Tasmanian forest industry received $767 million in taxpayer subsidies in the last 10 years alone. Little of this made its way down to those workers Gay claims he now loses sleep over. ]

  16. Liz45

    @STEVE – What is alarming about this proposed venture is what we’re not told. What is not in any document or proposal such as you mention – where is the long term timber coming from? There’s flowery words about plantation timber, but in the small print, there’s the inevitable requirement that forest timbers will be required. As usual, nobody in either the Tasmanian Govt or the Federal has insisted that Gunns give guarantees?

    Stephen Mayne is the last person I’d have thought would’ve had the audacity to come out with an article like this? It’s just amazing! As far as I know he has no credentials, and as his article displays no commitment to the environment or even a questioning mind? I’m very dismayed by this. Apparently he doesn’t believe that he has to answer any criticisms aired here either? What supreme arrogance?His ‘silence’ is deafening!

    I’ve been to Tassie once, for only a few days(my dad died and I had to come home) but I’d love to go back one day. I want to visit the Tamar Valley and the other beautiful areas that I’ve read about. If Gunns are allowed to go through with this, I despair as to the future of a tourist industry in this beautiful part of the world in future!

    Stephen, if you can afford to go to the US to the Murdoch AGM, you can go to Tassie and listen to the people involved in this awful plan!

  17. Reader

    I have made a concerted effort to study this project in fine detail. I have read literally thousands of pages of permits, scientific reports and other objective information.

    From this research I conclude that Stephen is 100% correct.

    I am sorry to say that the comments I read above can be rebutted with ease if one takes the trouble to dig for the truth. There are so many points of error presented in the above comments that I despair that Tasmania could dig its way out of the horrible economic conditions it is in, if these comments become accepted by the majority.

    By example, as most of the comments relate to forestry issues; this mill will consume about 4.5 million tons of wood chips per annum. There is plenty of chip resource in the ground now, mostly in Tasmania, to supply the project.

    100% Plantation only resource is ‘locked in’ by a Commonwealth permit requirement. After changing at Gunns’ request , Tony Burke made it a further condition that future permit changes can only be considered if any future change were environmentally insignificant or an overall benefit. There could be no NO retreat on this matter!

    The generation of power is a a classic no-brainer issue that is widely misunderstood. It is a by-product of the kraft process that also reconstitutes process chemicals. I fully expect Stephen will be pilloried for his message by a very vocal group of people who do not want to understand what is actually proposed.

    Well done Stephen!

  18. craigsampi

    Dear Stephen

    We at the Launceston Examiner agree with you.

    We have an opening in our propaganda department.

    Send your application to me at the Launceston Examiner, Patterson St, Launceston

    Sincere Regards

    Craig Sampi

    Barra Award winning sub-editor

    The Examiner (aka Gunns Gazette), Launceston, Tas.

  19. Barry Brannan

    How exactly did Mr Mayne come to visit the pulp mill? Did Gunns invite him? Or did Mr Mayne ask to attend? Who paid the air fares and accommodation?

  20. Jo McRae

    If Gunns get enough money out of the latest in a long line of JVP’s who have been hovering in the wings, Gunns will not have the 51% they require to retain ownership of the mill. Gunns regularly announce a JVP when there is an AGM due. Why has Crikey been taken in by this ploy?
    But then, with Crikey stating that Tasmania “desperately needs this mill”, they have clearly taken the hook, line and stinker. Why do we need a project that will provide only 300 longterm jobs, while destroying thousands of others?
    The health jobs mentioned are symptomatic of a government that has lost its way, and Gunns is a large part of the reason! Too many public dollars have gone into this project, and for what? To support a mendicant industry that doesn’t know how to make a profit.

  21. klewso

    And the environmental/health effects of “mono-phytoculture” on ecological systems?
    “Cancer clusters” – maybe even the facial tumours of Tassie devils?

  22. Lyndsay Tuffin

    Stephen’s somewhat subjective analysis has not gone down particularly well with Tasmanian Times readers:

    http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/weblog/article/mayne-gunns-believes-pulp-mill-approval-is-inevitable-…-as-it-should-be/show_comments

  23. davidk

    @ reader
    1. I don’t believe you.
    2. No rebuttal of the widely known health effects from inversion layer in your post.
    3. So much for the ” if one takes the trouble to search for the truth” line. I suspect you wouldn’t recognise the truth if you tripped over it.

  24. Rohan

    Steve strikes me as the type of guy that would be highly susceptible to being hoodwinked by a two hour site visit followed by tea and scones with the big boys. It’s not like he’s had any experience with identifying industry spin and seperating the wheat from the chaff.

    Oh wait..

  25. Frank Campbell

    This shows the limitations of Mayne the corporate critic- the corporate spruiker is revealed in this embarrassingly naive piece.

    Tasmania doesn’t “desperately need” a pulp mill. No one does. And the last place you’d put it would be the Tamar valley. Mayne ignores the decade of evidence available to all- which is why his excited burble sounds like the corporate spin it is.

    Tasmania’s chronic problem is schizophrenia: they can’t decide whether they want to be a clean green paradise or a throbbing, rapacious, extractive hub. Both major parties have always backed the latter, with predictable results. Primitive 1950s developmentalism has no long-term future- but try telling that to the retarded Tasmanian establishment.

  26. Reader

    @DAVIDK

    1. I don’t care…but as you asked…

    The ‘widely known’ effect you refer to is where Launceston’s air quality is compromised, because Launceston’s (mostly domestic wood heater smoke) emissions can not totally escape the local area of Launceston.

    The inversion layer is a low frequency phenomena, which is driven by katabatic cold air drainage from the Ben Lomond/Mt Barrow/Mt Arthur range of mountains and the central midlands into the Tamar Graben. It does not occur all the time. The overwhelming majority of the time it is simply absent. Its occurrence, unfortunately tends to coincide with peak wood smoke emission rates on relatively still and cold winter days.

    When inversions do occur, the very slow direction of air movement is from south to north (away from Launceston), not from the Bell Bay region in to Launceston. Accordingly Bell Bay emissions do not tend to exacerbate Launceston’s ‘problem’.

    Read the Environmental Impact Statement for the Tamar Valley Power Station, which as you realise is a few hundred metres north of the proposed pulp mill site. That study clearly describes how the entire Bell Bay area has relatively good air dispersion characteristics.

    Additionally, any ‘windy’ day will destroy an inversion. It is frequently windy in that area of the Tamar. When an inversion does form, they don’t last long.

    Conclusion ; low risk.

  27. Angela Long

    I wouldn’t call this an article, but rather an adversisement for Gunns.

    Only two hours of discussions with company executives Stephen? What breathtaking research! Clearly your opinion is easily brought.

    Your rediculous article has blatantly ignored the huge amount of opposition to the project, which will continue until the project is dead. I’m not an environmentalist or concerned local resident, but I’ll back them all the way on this one.

    I certainly wouldn’t be buying any Gunns shares based on your little chit chat, but it’s probably a slightly better gamble than the pokies.

    Speaking of financial returns, I’d like a dollar for every person that has said Gunns’ have ALMOST secured finance for the project. Hmmmm, waiting….

  28. Mark Duffett

    @Lindsay Tuffin yes, the usual suspects have said the things one would predict they would say on TT, but as you’d know there are many more readers than commenters. Mayne’s piece will have been welcomed by many of the former.

  29. mikeb

    Gunns is trying hard to reinvent its corporate image of a rapacious, law unto itself bully boy. History shows that Gunns thinks nothing of trashing the forests for woodships and destroying the hard working timber worker familes through indebting them & then pulling out the rug when is suits them. I always remember something taught to me long ago – don’t judge someone on what they say – judge them on what they have done. Gunns have done much in the past to make themselves poison to the fortunes of ordinary Tasmanians. I have no confindence now that they have become good corporate citizens and will be a net benefit to the state.

  30. Anne Layton-Bennett

    Are you serious? This would have to be one of the laziest, poorly researched pieces of journalistic twaddle I’ve read in a long time. It might be something those of us who live in northern Tasmania would expect to read in The Examiner, but it’s very disappointing to find Crikey is prepared to publish it.

    Two hours with a few of Gunns’ remaining execs watching heavy machinery pushing dirt around, and this makes you an instant expert on why this pulp mill is a good idea for Tasmania’s Tamar Valley. Good grief! You’ve either been conned Stephen, and conned big time, or you are remarkably gullible. Those canny folk at Gunns flicked you some shiny bait and my goodness you swallowed it.

    Have you really no idea why so many people throughout Tasmania (and wider Australia if it comes to that) are SO opposed to this appalling toxic chemical factory being built in the Tamar Valley? Why we are not prepared to risk our health, livelihoods, indeed, our very future because this thuggish company is prepared to risk its future – and that of a steadily dwindling number of employees – on the foul, stinking altar of this pulp mill?

    Perhaps you should have spent another two hours with members of those community groups opposed to this mill to gain a more balanced view of this issue.

    a) Find out why Gunns withdrew from the independant RPDC in such a hurry when they realised the project was to be deemed ‘critically non-compliant’.
    b) Ask why a risk assessment has NEVER been done on the economics of the project – and what negatives there will be for existing tourism, wine, orchardists, agricultural, fishing industries?
    c) Find out the extremely serious implications for public health, from the toxic emissions this mill will spew into the atmosphere and the marine environment.
    d) Discover how many more log trucks will be thundering along Tasmania’s roads – and the associated increased probability for road accidents, deaths, hospital admissions . . . . . oh dear but
    e) the state government has just cut a massive amount from the health budget involving the closures of entire wards (never mind a few beds). This may not have occurred . . . but
    f) the state’s economy would be a damn sight better off had successive premiers over the last seven years not chosen to put far too much of taxpayers’ money into propping up Gunns, a dysfunctional forestry industry, and this despised pulp mill – all at the expense of Tasmanians’ health, education, housing and roads.

    Stephen the pulp mill is a crock. I encourage you to read the Dossier, prepared by community group Friends of the Tamar Valley to elicit a few FACTS about why this pulp mill will be utterly disastrous for Tasmania, before you write another word spruiking this most despicable and detestable development. You can access it at: http://ftv.org.au/

  31. David Maddern

    I wonder if Mr Mayne flew in to Launceston, and if he did he would have landed on the North-South runway. Funny, that isn’t it, don’t they normally build runways along the prevailing wind direction?
    And Launceston is in the south of the proposed pulp mill site, but they reckon that smoke and fine particulate matter will not hit Launceston.

    Strange physics akin the Emperor’s new clothes.

    It is an abominable plan in the wrong place, cutting across that which makes Tasmania strong, its diversity, with no human risk assessment done, and they tried to ride roughshod over the people that live there, and they are falling on by one.

  32. Liz45

    I don’t remember all the details pertaining to the many articles on this Pulp Mill, but what I clearly remember are the passionate and fully researched arguments of many people in Tasmania who are both against this unnecessary pulp mill, and who will be affected by it?

    I wonder whether SM, Mark Duffet, Reader etc will be! I bet they don’t even live in Tassie? I bet they’ve not even spoken to the locals?

    Like others before me, I will support those who oppose this horrific and damaging project until the end – just like I did over the Franklin River. I still have some items that I purchased to support that campaign – some just in photos? What a great day that victory was!

    Peter Cundall, a lifetime campaigner; a man whose livelihood was spent being involved with growing things and preserving them, not poisoning the air and destroying living things? I listen to his wealth of knowledge and passion on this issue, and I’m in awe of his courage and commitment! He was willing to be arrested over this issue – he’s over 80! Good on him!

    My understanding is that there’s a pulp mill in Finland? or somewhere, and it’s commitment to the environment far exceeds Gunn’s proposal? What sort of a Govt allows a company that’s going to profit by their own proposal to write the Legislation?

    It’s not just the Pulp Mill that people are against – it’s the whole stinking mess of govt involvement in this issue; millions handed over to Gunns, and allowing them to write their own rules????

    I don’t have much faith in the Federal Labor Govt either! They’d sell their own mothers for revenue! Their priorities are not the health and well being of our environment, and many decisions made in the last 4 years are evidence of this!

  33. Andrew McIntosh

    “Indeed, yesterday’s Launceston Examiner revealed that 10 jobs were being axed from an aged care home in Perth near Launceston because the state government refused to assist with funding.”

    How does a pulp mill help that situation?

  34. Smithee

    Isn’t it interesting how “Crikey” trys to spin itself as some independent think media, yet is silent in the face of genuine feedback? Stephen where are you? No guts to return to the scene of your crime? Your simplistic analysis is copping the contempt it deserves and so of course you remain silent.

  35. Liz45

    @SMITHEE – Indeed! I’m very disappointed in Stephen Mayne. I’d have thought he’d at least put forward some ‘compelling’ info or at least answer his critics, but? No guts as you say!
    (Tasmania is a lot closer than New York after all – cheaper to fly there!)

    Obviously it’s more important to fly across the world to lock horns with Rupert Murdoch than spend a couple of hundred bucks and go and talk to the people in Tasmania? What Stephen knows fits on a postage stamp in comparison to many of the people who’ve dedicated themselves to this campaign for years – attending Parliament/Public meetings etc, writing submissions, informing the community, participating in forums, getting jostled/man handled/arrested etc?

    @ANDREW – I agree! Of course what’s happening to the Health system in Tasmania at the moment is all the more reprehensible when you consider the millions handed over to Gunns, the Timber industry in general etc. More recently the $35 million compensation???What??

  36. mikeb

    The things that galls most thinking Tasmanians – even those not directly affected by pollution concerns, is the fact that Gunns has used politcal connections for as long as memory to ride roughshod over due process and the State’s best interests. Look at the former state premiers who have received ongoing largesse from Gunns. Look at how the deals were agreed to before the public ever knew about it. Look at how Gunns threw their corporate lawyers at the “Gunns twenty” to intimidate and potentially bankrupt them and scare off future protesters. The judge’s scathing summary of the proceedings and the actions of Gunns makes interesting (but not pretty) reading. Look at how everything wrong with the timber industry is blamed on the greens – even if Gunns have had their own way 99% of the time. Timber workers aren’t losing their jobs now because of the greens – they are losing them because of industry failure to recognise that the world has moved on and Gunns (and Forestry Tasmania in general) refused to change their third world practices. Don Gay had to go because he represented everything that was wrong with Gunns (plus it was good timing to go before the share price plummeted). Nevertheless the culture that Gay fostered remains to this day despite the more politically correct L’Estrange. Now SM writes that all is good in Gunns – all of a sudden. You wonder why i smell a rat in the ranks. It might be good for the long-suffering shareholders, but ordinary Tasmanians will pay the price.

  37. David Leigh

    Before making such broad statements about the viability and ecological/economic potential for this site and after just two hours with Messrs Frame and co. It might be wise to talk to some Tasmanians who have given much of their lives to researching this project. Firstly, Gunns has had the perfect chance to make a massive success of this, by getting its timber at a fraction of the price paid for firewood and then not actually paying for it. The company has traditionally made underpaying its contractors into an art form, sending many to the wall. The State Government has given so many concessions to Gunns, even to the point of finally handing out $23-million to stop logging native forests, something the company had done already to try and get FSC certification. Is it purely coincidental the health budget was cut by a similar amount, closing beds and a complete renal unit? With all these financial benefits the company still manages to make a massive loss.

    Gunns is also an organisation, which has destroyed more pristine environment than two world wars and decimated more wildlife than the droughts in Ethiopia. Gunns has also destroyed the lives of so many Tasmanians though illness from chemical sprays, by death on the roads from log truck accidents and by buying up and then closing infrastructure and cutting jobs. This is a company with a record that should rate high on the Human Rights’ hit list.

    This vile cancerous growth on Tasmania’s surface needs eradicating by any means possible if this island is to have any chance of a future. Any investor supporting this mill should beware. The project has no social licence and will never get one from the Tasmanian people. All Greens members and the Wilderness Society do not want a pulp mill in the Tamar valley. You might talk to them before listening to spin-doctors. And finally, should approval be given for this mill there will be an uprising on this island that will make the global “Occupy Movement” look like a village fete.

  38. Frank Campbell

    D. Leigh: “should approval be given for this mill there will be an uprising on this island that will make the global “Occupy Movement” look like a village fete.”

    As corporatism spread in its new virulent form from the mid-1980s, we were always grateful for small mercies. Meliorists are always grateful for small mercies. Stephen Mayne was one such small mercy- always ready to expose the worst corporate excesses and clout the Murdoch mafia. But Mayne’s abysmal failure to comprehend the historical, political or environmental aspects of Gunns shows his fatal limitations. Ultimately, Stephen can’t think outside the suit- or the city. Neither can the estimable Alan Kohler. And neither can Crikey itself, dominated as it is by writers such as Bernard Keane who, like Mayne, are unable to transcend the assumptions of corporatism, though they snap at its heels.

    Gunns is just one example of extractive capitalist rapacity, taking advantage of a backward region- no different in kind to BHP or Freeport in New Guinea.

    People just won’t take it any more, Stephen. That’s what’s different this time around. Global capitalism is sinking in its own cesspit of debt, while demanding that the taxpayer, pensioner and employee drink the filth to save it . The tame and vague “occupy wherever” demos will get bigger and nastier as the crisis bites. So will the repression. You can bet on fascist and Trotskyist revivals.

    And you can expect that resistance to extractive capitalism will sharply increase, whether it be mining, CSG, logging or industrial wind turbines. Unlike the 1960s and 70s, the environment does matter now.

    So the Maynes of this world listen up- join the next attempt to civilise capitalism. You have nothing to lose but your suits.

  39. Liz45

    @MIKEB @DAVID LEIGH – Indeed! There are plenty of people in the other states who support you. I’m from NSW. I agree with all that you’ve both said, and how do I know it to be true? I don’t rely on the biased writings of people like Stephen Mayne, who obviously doesn’t know s**t from c**y about any of this. He reads one biased report; makes out he’s now an expert and then does Gunns/Tasmanian Govt’s PR for them! And when challenged by people who know a lot more(like you two)he bunkers down like a true coward? Amazing!

    I can recall the many campaigns re logging in Tasmania. I went to a lecture given by the bloke who was called ‘The Man of Trees’ after I watched a documentary on Huon Pines – their size took my breath away. What this man knew was limitless – he was still active up to his death – he was in his 80’s when I saw him – in the late 70’s/early 80’s.

    People like the both of you(and others of like mind) make me feel optimistic about the future of the planet – for my grandkids and theirs – and yours and yours! Thank you!

    The day Gunns finally is forced to stop this destructive Pulp Mill will be reason for great celebration – I’ll thank you all – and probably shed some tears! I just wish I had money – then I could really help!

    Stephen, why don’t you take your family for a holiday in Tasmania? Rub shoulders with the ‘real’ people – do more research and grass roots listening! You’ll be astonished by what you’ll see and hear. And this is an ideal time to go – not too cold? It’s truly a beautiful place. One day I’ll go back! (win Lotto or something?)

  40. Venise Alstergren

    I’m totally on side with LIZ on this issue, simply because I don’t trust Gunns to source plantation timber only.

    Tasmania has an unbelievably shonky record on environmental issues, going further back than the Hydro Electricity monopoly and the misuse thereof. Also, I fail to see why I should feel sorry for Tasmania. It’s their state, let them fix it.

    As for you STEPHEN, I used to think of you as a god, now I ain’t so sure.

  41. Jon Dee

    “After spending more than two hours on site” I’m really surprised that Stephen Maybe can be so taken in by the Gunns spin team. People subscribe to Crikey in order to get proper independent analysis of key issues. This article looks like it was written by the head of the Gunns PR team.

    This is woeful reporting by someone who I usually admire. Very disappointed by this.

  42. Liz45

    @JON DEE – I’m more than disappointed – I’m disgusted! I question every comment Stephen Mayne makes about any company now. I no longer trust him, and have no faith in his ability to scrutinise anything? He’s proved that he’s just as bad as the bastards in the Tasmanian Govt who support Gunns?

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