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Australia: Tas pulp mill's approval draws ire from forest, green lobbies

Source:  Copyright 2009, Canberra Times
Date:  January 7, 2009
Original URL: Status DEAD

The environment and forestry lobbies have slammed the Federal Government's conditional approval of the Gunns pulp mill.

The company has the green light to build the controversial $2.2 billion mill in Tasmania's Tamar Valley.

But Environment Minister Peter Garrett has withheld final approval for the mill to operate until Gunns studies the facility's impact on Bass Strait.

It could take two years to complete this process.

''Whether or not Gunns decide to actually ... start constructing a mill prior to getting final approval is a matter for them to take and it's a risk for them to take if they so choose,'' Mr Garrett said yesterday.

National Association of Forest Industries chief executive Allan Hansard was disappointed.

''In a time when we are facing an unprecedented global economic recession [and] when all Australians would benefit from having sustainable projects like the Gunns pulp mill, we may have to wait a further 26 months for final approval,'' Mr Hansard said.

''This will mean the investment, associated jobs and economic growth created by the project will be delayed and may not be available to the Tasmanian and Australian economies when they are needed the most.''

He has urged the Government to set aside money from the Building Australia Fund to expedite ''sustainable projects of national significance'' such as the pulp mill.

Wilderness Society spokesman Paul Oosting said the Government had failed the environment on two fronts in the wake of its decision on the pulp mill.

''The Rudd Government has just failed a second environmental test,'' he said.

''First, it failed to properly respond to climate change and now it is approving a project that would pollute the air and ocean, destroy vast areas of native forest and create massive levels of carbon emissions.'' He spoke on behalf of anti-mill protesters who demonstrated yesterday outside Tasmanian Labor MP Jodie Campbell's electorate office.

''Jodie Campbell, as elected representative for Bass must work with Mr Garrett and Prime Minister [Kevin] Rudd to ensure Gunns withhold any construction until there is a full understanding of the impact of the daily dumping of 64,000 tonnes of toxic pollution into Bass Strait,'' Mr Oosting said.

''Bulldozers could move in any day now and construction work can begin before there is a full understanding of the environmental and economic damage the mill's effluent will cause.''

Mr Garrett said the Government had acted in a ''sound and reasonable fashion''.

''Critically and absolutely centrally to this whole discussion has been the question of effluent dispersal,'' he said.

''I've made sure that the work that has to be done will be done properly beforehand, before any approvals may or may not be given, and I think that should provide confidence to the community and also to Gunns that the decision-making has been done in a sound and reasonable fashion.''

Gunns spokesman Matt Horan said the timber giant had never doubted its ability to satisfy the marine effluent impact requirements as these were designed by the company.

''They were proposed by Gunns, presented to the Federal Government, accepted, and we await the results of the testing,'' Mr Horan said.

''We couldn't begin the modelling until the Government had approved the format on Monday.''The company's intention was always to carry out the marine testing concurrently with construction. The minister then has to approve of our strategy to deal with the results of the testing.'' Mr Garrett has also presented penalties of up to $1.1 million if the mill exceeds pollution limits. Gunns shares ended trade yesterday up 11c at $1.26.

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Related News

17/1/2009 - Australia: Garrett gives mill go ahead, Green Left

5/1/2009 - Australia: Forest industry demands pulp mill approval, AAP

4/1/2009 - Australia: Garrett expected to approve Gunns pulp mill, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

8/9/2008 - Govt extends Gunns' submission on mill, West Australian

27/8/2008 - Gunns requests voluntary suspension, Business Spectator

14/8/2008 - Australia: Gunns asked for timetable of pulp mill planning, Mercury

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