More delays for Gunns\' pulp mill

June 21, 2008

Five hundred people attended an anti-pulp mill public meeting in Launceston on June 10. It was organised by the Wilderness Society to pressure Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett into ensuring that no more public funds are used to support Gunns' proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill or its pipeline.

The meeting called for the state government to withdraw its support for the mill given the numerous environmental, social, and economic problems associated with the project. Speakers also called for the removal of any government subsidies for the mill or related infrastructure such as roads.

There was a call for dialogue with all groups concerned about the future of Tasmania's assets, as well as a call to rule out any compulsory acquisition of land for the pulp mill.

Four days later, the state budget was released. It did not include any public subsidies for the mill, in fact it made no mention of it — another win for the anti-pulp mill campaign. Bartlett has said that there will be no public funding of the mill unless the project were to pass a public interest test.

In response to the public meeting, Greens MHA Kim Booth said on June 16 that he would be introducing a bill to parliament to repeal the permission given to Gunns to construct the mill. The project was granted permission last year by the government of then-premier Paul Lennon, who resigned on May 26.

In a June 17 Hobart Mercury article, Booth was quoted as saying: "When Labor's anti-democratic legislation was rammed through the state parliament last year, we were told time was of the essence for the proponent, an excuse that has been exposed as a sham now that a year has passed and Gunns' project is not much further advanced."

Gunns are now seeking to extend the deadline to begin construction, as the original agreement requires them to start building by June 30 or risk nullifying the agreement. Gunns are seeking to extend the deadline until November 30, with the project being completed in 2010.

One reason for the delay in the project is that ANZ bank — who were originally to fund the mill — has withdrawn support.

It is understood that Gunns' CEO John Gay went to Europe in April this year to secure international financing for the mill.

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