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Timber families frustrated by Clayton’s decision on Bell Bay Pulp Mill

The approval in principle by the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett of the Environmental Impact Management Plan (EIMP) for the Bell Bay pulp mill should have been great news, but new Commonwealth demands for even more modeling brings great frustration for timber dependent families.
The so-called Clayton’s approval has been the subject of criticism from several sources.
The former Commonwealth Chief Scientist had said that the Bell Bay pulp mill would lead the world in being environmentally responsible; it would achieve an “environmentally natural footprint”. But, now there is to be even more modeling and extra conditions on top of what was supposed to be the world’s most stringent environmental conditions.
“Timber dependent families have been waiting five long torturous years for this major step down the job-creating and value-adding path; but now it appears the Commonwealth is asking these families to endure another 26 months of uncertainly and with it more pain,”said Barry Chipman, Tasmanian manager Timber Communities Australia.
“TCA members question the need for extra conditions when around the world pulp mills using modern ECF technology do not have any significant impact upon marine areas or endangered or migratory species. In 2005 the Commonwealth correctly approved with no conditions the ECF upgrade for a Victorian pulp and paper mill that is already discharging into Bass Strait with no detrimental marine impact.
“Therefore, timber dependent families would be very keen to learn from the Commonwealth where the precedent for this extra modeling is?
“Adding to timber families’ frustration is the apparent inconsistency between the Federal Minister’s media statements and his official letter released to the ASX. These apparent inconsistencies bring no joy for timber folk to be once again used as a political football. This is grossly unfair as jobs and community wellbeing is at stake,” said Chipman.
He immediately questioned why there were two different messages, and he stressed that TCA would be seeking clarification from the Commonwealth as to why.
“Tasmania’s timber dependent families still hold a very strong belief in the social, environmental and economic soundness of the project and on behalf of those families TCA will again inform Gunns of that belief and seek assurances that the project still has a future,” Chipman said.
The Forest Industries Association of Tasmania has also expressed its disbelief at the latest move. E A S E
FIA chairman Dr Julian Amos said he was disappointed that all of the remaining modules did not gain unconditional approval.
“Although most of the modules have now been approved, and this is a positive, the
conditions placed on the final three modules will cause continuing doubt and delay,” he
“These three modules relate to marine impacts and it is my understanding that the
Minister has approved these in principle however retaining conditions based on a
precautionary approach is unhelpful and will foster further doubt over the mill.
“At this time of economic uncertainty, such an approach will be detrimental to the
Tasmanian economy.
“Approval of the project would be a huge positive step forward for the State in both
economic and employment terms, however, the conditions imposed means Gunns will
need to meet yet more stringent guidelines that will further delay this project.
“The pulp mill project already meets world class standards and much higher standards
than any other pulp mill in Australia.
“The pulp mill is estimated to create about 3500 new jobs in the construction phase
and a further 1600 new permanent jobs.
“The effects of the increased employment will flow-on to other business sectors such
as construction, transport and small businesses throughout the State.
“The project has been stringently scrutinised so Tasmanians can be assured that the
pulp mill meets the strictest environmental guidelines yet Environment Minister Peter
Garrett is still retaining conditions that have already been met.
5th January 2009
Dr Amos said the Federal Minister’s concerns over the effluent have already been
researched by Gunns and the effluent will be quite clean.
“It is our understanding that the level of dioxins put down in conditions for Gunns to
comply with is less than American drinking water guidelines for consumption by
humans which is one of the conditions Garrett has retained,” he said.
“The people of Tasmania are still being told there are concerns, even though the
effluent will be discharged into a body of water as large as Bass Strait.
“There is a pulp mill on the other side of Bass Strait that’s been discharging the same
form of effluent into Bass Strait for over 40 years based on older technology without
adverse environmental impacts.”
Dr Amos said it was about time the pulp mill project was given unconditional approval
to go ahead and the actions of Environment Minister Peter Garrett imposing more
conditions is just ridiculous.