World Rainforest Movement

Australia/Tasmania: Deal favours Gunns’ pulp mill project despite popular opposition

On the first days of this month the Tasmanian people got to know of a deal that had been struck four months before between their government and the timber company Gunns. The deal, called the Sovereign Risk Agreement, provides that taxpayers should fund the company along 20 years with $15 million in case its wood supply is compromised by any reason. (1)

Gunns’ projected pulp mill has faced strong opposition from social sectors including students. In the blog Students Against the Pulp Mill (http://stopthemill.blogspot.com/2008/04/alliance-forms-to-save-tasmania-from.html) it can be read: “So if we vote this government out because we don’t approve of the pulp mill, the next government will be forced to continue supplying timber to Gunns, even if most Tasmanians don’t agree to it. How undemocratic”.

The government’s favouritism for Gunns is in stark contrast with its attitude towards the concerns raised over the potential adverse impacts of the unpopular pulp mill Gunns plans to build in the Tamar Valley. The Gunns fast track approval did not even assess the potential adverse impacts of the pulp mill industry on tourism, fishing, niche clean agriculture and wine making. And in case the proposed pulp mill causes damage to clean, green industries, they won’t receive any compensation for that.

Local businesses were told that it’s not the government’s business to help them out if damage to their clean, green reputation ensues.

An article from The Tasmanian Greens (2) denounces the following: “A letter written by Premier Paul Lennon to the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania (TICT) specifically addressing industry concerns over the pulp mill, dated 6 September 2007, states in relation to the following concern expressed to him:

TICT: ‘There must be a method of assisting businesses that suffer loss of trade or capital value as a proven result of the operation of the pulp mill’.

Premier: ‘Individuals will need to seek independent legal advice about remedies available to them should they suffer loss of trade or capital value as a result of the operation of the pulp mill.’”

The students’ blog reports that last April 16 “A diverse collection of groups, individuals and businesses from around Tasmania and Australia have come together in the Tamar Valley this weekend and agreed to the formation of a cohesive working alliance to stop the Gunns pulp mill.”

There was a call to close personal bank accounts in ANZ Bank as a punishment for its potential support to the Gunns’ pulp mill project, and around 100 people –especially young people— rallied on the Parliament House’s lawn to express the central message: DON’T PULP OUR FUTURE!

Article based on information from:

(1) Compo for Gunns if supply fails, Matthew Denholm, The Australian, http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23652116-5013871,00.html;

(2) $15 Million Price Tag On Democracy Under Deal With Gunns,http://tas.greens.org.au/News/view_MR.php?ActionID=2979