PULP MILL ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT BILL 2014

January 29, 2014

Mrs ARMITAGE (Launceston ) - Mr President, I preface my speech by stating, as I have on many occasions, that I am not anti-forestry, nor anti-Gunns and have never opposed a pulp mill for Tasmania but I do not believe that the Tamar Valley is an appropriate site for this mill. Have we learnt nothing from the past?

This week we sit to make judgment on legislation designed to again fast-track the pulp mill, this time at the request of the receivers, KordaMentha. It is understandable that implications of pending litigation would make intended buyers wary, as does community disunity, unrest and protest. While the government may be able to again legislate away our democratic rights, they cannot prevent the community continuing to show their disapproval with legal protest. Whatever legislation we put in place to override the rights of Tasmanians opposed to this mill, there is still no social licence. Whether we agree with the Tasmanian Conservation Trust case before the courts or not, it is of concern that this legislation changes the law retrospectively, which neutralises the live case.

Originally the pulp mill was to be assessed by Tasmania's independent planning authority, the Resource Planning and Development Commission, to look at the economic, environmental and social impacts of the project. This included impacts on climate change, native forests, other businesses that would be impacted, such as fisheries and farming, and health impacts due to air pollution. In late 2004, the RPDC began work on establishing criteria and guidelines for the assessment of the pulp mill, the biggest development in Tasmania's history. The RPDC process was accredited and supported by both state and federal governments, the proponent of the project Gunns Limited as well as most opponents of the project.

On 14 March 2007, Gunns abandoned the rigorous independent assessment of the RPDC because of what they saw as excessive delays and a lack of certainty around the assessment time lines. Many people whom I have spoken to cite the fast-tracking of the pulp mill in 2007 and the removal of due process along with the loss of adequate assessment that would have been undertaken by the RPDC, had it continued, as their major reason for not supporting a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley and the subsequent loss of a social licence.

The issue of a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley has been extremely divisive in our community. The Tasmanian timber industry is suffering and facing serious difficulties and in Launceston alone, timber workers and associated businesses have lost many hundreds of jobs. It is understandable that emotions run very high on both sides of the debate.

If a pulp mill is built, it should stand or fall on its own merits and not government legislation. The Premier made much mention in her speech yesterday that if you looked across the river you could see lots of industry. So what was the problem with the pulp mill? Bell Bay is an industrial precinct. However, the visual amenity of a pulp mill is only one aspect of those opposing it.

This bill before us is about permits, so I will not get into the problems associated with whether there will be enough wood supply for a pulp mill which, I am advised, at full capacity would require between 3.8 million to 4.5 million tonnes of woodchips annually, or that a kraft mill would need between 26 to 46 billion litres of water each year and that in Launceston our winter air quality is poor. In 2007, according to government information, an estimated eight additional deaths per year were as a result of air pollution. There is scientific literature which demonstrates that odour problems often associated with kraft pulp mills is not just a nuisance factor but is also adverse to our health. Also, an increase in road traffic is likely to cause an increase in road fatalities, air emissions and noise.

I have been asked to read a letter into Hansard by Julian Allport of Moores Hill Estate and I am sure that everyone has received this letter from a group of wineries. It says:

We are writing to you to register our collective concern regarding the potential negative effect of reinvigorating the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill project on our businesses and the Tasmanian wine industry in general.

In recent years Labor, Liberal and the Greens have lauded the wine industry as one of the pillars of the Tasmanian economy. All have agreed that the potential contribution of our industry to investment and jobs is extremely promising. On the back of this bi-partisan support for our industry and a growing interest nationally and internationally for our wine, a majority of wine businesses in the Tamar Valley have made very significant financial investments in growing our respective businesses. Investments in land, infrastructure, vineyard area, plant and equipment and marketing have all been made with future growth in mind.

A little known fact is that every year almost 50% of all Tasmanian winegrape production is from the Tamar Valley alone. In addition, our industry employs more people every year. We are certain that we have been pulling our weight for Tasmania by growing tourism numbers, finding new export markets, paying taxes, buying local goods and services and generally contributing positively to the Tasmanian economy.

For these reasons we find it to be an unconscionable kick in the guts for both sides of politics to revive the pulp mill project as a live issue. Leaving aside the environmental concerns we may have we feel the revived Pulp Mill project will:

" erode the hard fought value of our wine brands which have all been built leveraging off the clean, green, sustainable value proposition that the Tasmanian wine industry represents

" erode the value of Brand Tasmania and thus have a seriously negative impact on the willingness of tourists to visit the Tamar Valley, visit our cellar doors or buy our wines

" erode the value of our significant financial investments already made, including capital expenditure and real-estate value

" diminish our ability to further grow our businesses and therefore our capacities to be future employers

We would like to state that as a group we are not anti-forestry nor anti-mill. However, given the nature of our concerns in terms of the potential effects on our businesses as we strive to build a vibrant industry based on tourism and exports, we are very much against any pulp mill in any form, any time in our Tamar Valley.

We urge you to reconsider your positions on the 'enabling' legislation before both Houses for the reasons outlined above.

Yours sincerely,

Chartley Estate, Rowella. Delamere Vineyards, Pipers River. Sinapius, Pipers Rivers. Grey Sands, Glengarry. Holm Oak Vineyards, Rowella. Humbug Reach, Legana. Loira Vines, Loira. Marions Vineyard, Deviot. Moores Hill Estate, Sidmouth. Three Wishes Vineyard, Hillwood. Waterton Hall, Rowella. Winterbrook, Loira.

We must not ignore the concerns of our citizens. We have been told in briefings that under this legislation all licences and permits that have not been surrendered or cancelled - and it is my understanding that none has - will be taken not to have lapsed and that if a permit has lapsed from lack of time that permit will be reinstated. In KordaMentha's letter to the Premier on 19 September 2013 they wrote:

Our position is that the Pulp Mill Permit ('Permit') remains valid. However, in the possible event that it has lapsed under the Pulp Mill Act, the presumption against retrospectivity under common law or as espoused in section 16 of the Acts Interpretation Act (Tas) 1931 would apply so as to prevent the Permit from being revalidated through an amendment to the existing provisions of the Pulp Mill Act, if the Permit had already expired under the provisions of that Act.

We therefore think that the most prudent avenue to achieve the outcomes outlined above is for a new Act to be legislated which contains an express provision stating that, notwithstanding anything in the Pulp Mill Act, the Permit is revived to the extent necessary. The new Act would also need a clause in similar terms to section 11 of the Pulp Mill Act in relation to Limitation of Rights. However in order to avoid the same risk of litigation as has occurred in relation to the current Permit, we think that the following amendments set out in the table on the following page should be incorporated in the new Limitation of Rights section.

KordaMentha continues:

... The timing of the passage of the amending legislation is therefore critical to the sale strategy of the Gunns assets. We seek confirmation from your Office of the likely time frame in which the amending legislation could proceed and seek your commitment to secure its passage in the November sittings of Parliament.

Would it be cynical to suggest that this business before us now is politically motivated, given the urgency of the letter in September 2013, with the legislation now before us in January 2014? Do KordaMentha's prospective buyers want a pulp mill or do they just want Tasmania's timber resources? We were told during the forest agreement debate that peace in the forests was necessary as many overseas countries would not deal with us if there was community unrest. This legislation before us today will do nothing to stop community unrest. In fact, I believe it inflames it. Has the precedent been set to enable further legislative changes to accommodate this mill? Leader, what would happen if circumstances dictated the mill be closed down due to environmental breaches? If a solution was not forthcoming, would legislative changes be developed to amend their operating permit to suit the circumstances of the day thereby enabling them to continue to operate, irrespective of any environmental damage they cause?

Mr Harriss - Of course not.

Mrs ARMITAGE - Well, it is setting a bit of a precedent here.

Mr Harriss - No, no. This is doubts removal and what you have just suggested has nothing to do with doubts removal.

Mrs ARMITAGE - In closing, I share with the Chamber the words of a third generation landowner from the Tamar region:

The Tamar Valley is an iconic region in Tasmania providing natural beauty and economic diversity. A large number of small businesses in this valley provide economic stability and employment for a large number of people. One of the major factors contributing to the success of these businesses is the natural environment that we operate in. It is not only well suited to the production of a diverse range of agricultural, horticultural and viticultural products, but the valley also attracts a large number of tourist visitors hungry to see the rich natural beauty.

It needs to be remembered by all of us that the Tamar Valley is not owned by any one of us - we are all merely tenants for a short period of time. We all have a responsibility to preserve our natural heritage and environment, as well as our cultural heritage.

It would seem to me we have set a precedent for legislative intervention with regard to this mill and I cannot support the legislation before me as I do not believe it is in the best interests of the people of northern Tasmania or the state of Tasmania as a whole.

 

 

 

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