Pulp the Mill launches legal bid to stop Gunns

October 10, 2011
Photo: pulpthemill.org

I am a member of Pulp the Mill, a group of peaceful community protesters who engage in civil disobedience to protest the politically corrupted Tamar Valley pulp mill assessment process in Tasmania.

Pulp the Mill has repeatedly called for a Royal Commission into this corrupted process, and in particular into Section 11 of the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007, a clause that removes the right of people to either claim compensation, or take legal action, should the pulp mill cause a negative impact on their health or livelihoods in any way whatsoever.

The group has members and supporters from all over Tasmania and Australia, but it’s based in the Tamar Valley, near Launceston, where the pulp mill threat has loomed over everyone who lives there for more than seven years.

Since it was established, Pulp the Mill has held three peaceful, arrestable protests. Two were held outside Hobart’s Parliament House. Well-known horticulturalist Peter Cundall was among the 57 people arrested at the second one.

A third was held outside the Beaconsfield Community Cabinet Forum, where state government ministers were meeting to hear the concerns of the people.

More recently we have held non-arrestable protest rallies. A protest in March at the Tamar Valley’s Batman Bridge Reserve attracted 1600 people. And in August almost 200 people rallied just inside the entrance to the pulp mill site.

Each time we have gathered to protest our outrage over the politically corrupted process, and the overall threat the pulp mill poses to public health, and the Tamar Valley’s environment, it has been inspiring to see the strength of commitment to the no pulp mill cause that the community has maintained for so many years.

The number of groups opposed to the mill continues to grow. The Wilderness Society, TAP Into A Better Tasmania (formerly known as Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill), Pulp the Mill, Friends of the Tamar Valley, Surfriders Association, and Code Green are just a few examples.

Code Green has recently protested about the start of earthworks and dam construction on the pulp mill site, which has gone ahead despite continuing uncertainty over the legality of this work due to the expiry of permits on August 30.

Pulp the Mill made a strategic decision not to have onsite protests, choosing instead to lodge a legal challenge against the builder of the mill, Gunns Ltd, in the Hobart Magistrate’s Court over the company’s claim it had made a “substantial commencement” towards the mill’s construction by August 30.

As a result, on September 7 Pulp the Mill (led by spokesperson, Lucy Landon-Lane) began a legal case that claimed Gunns has no permit or approval to do any work at the Long Reach site of its proposed pulp mill.

Pulp the Mill’s case is based on the fact that: “It is an offence against the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act s. 63 (3) to undertake use or development contrary to a planning scheme.

“In this case, the George Town [Council] Planning Scheme — just like all planning schemes — says no person can undertake use or development without a permit. Gunns’ has no permit issued by the Council under the Planning Scheme.

“All Gunns can rely on is the Pulp Mill Permit. Pulp the Mill believes that permit has lapsed, so Gunns has no permit to do any work.”

Pulp the Mill believes this court action will be crucial in stopping the pulp mill, but the group’s legal team has strongly advised against taking part in any onsite direct action.

As a part of the approval process for the proposed pulp mill, permits were issued by the Tasmanian Government in 2007. These permits reached their expiry date on August 30, 2011.

In order to establish if the permits lapsed without Gunns fulfilling its “substantial commencement” obligations, a legal determination must be made on whether “substantial commencement” had actually occurred.

The charge is that on August 30 and beyond, Gunns undertook the development of land at the East Tamar Highway Long Reach site by carrying out earthworks on that land for the purposes of constructing a pulp mill where Gunns had no permit for that, or any development of that land under the George Town Planning Scheme 1991, or otherwise, contrary to and in breach of the Land Use, Planning and Approvals Act 1993, s.63 (2).

“The Court will be asked to decide if the permit has lapsed or not. That is, the Court will be asked to determine the validity of the permit and will have to decide if there has been substantial commencement of the project.”

Pulp the Mill Inc. has briefed Stephen Estcourt QC to lead the prosecution team. Estcourt is a former Tasmanian magistrate, a former chair of the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal (RMPAT) and regarded as one of Tasmania’s leading planning lawyers.

Legal determination on this issue is essential to our campaign however legal action is costly, and can continue only with financial support from the community, because following countless delays and permit extensions to facilitate the mill’s progress, and despite failing to secure a Joint Venture Partner or financial investor for the project, Gunns continues to maintain a financier will be found, and the project will go ahead despite overwhelming and ongoing community opposition.

If you would like to help us with this part of our campaign, please donate to our legal fund, or visit our website: www.pulpthemill.org/donate for account details.

Dr Warwick Raverty, a retired pulp and paper scientist with 25 years experience in the industry, and a former CSIRO scientist, recently said he believed it unlikely that Chinese companies will be interested in securing a supply of papermaking fibre, and would be unlikely to invest in the pulp mill as a joint venture partner for Gunns’ project.

Raverty believes that Gunns will continue to spend money bulldozing the site, and that the ANZ Bank (Gunns’ principal banker) will give Gunns until the end of this year to secure a joint venture partner.

He predicts that if finance has not been found by December 31, ANZ will refuse to extend the terms on its $583 million loan, and administrators will be appointed to wind up the company.

Let’s hope we see the final nail in the coffin of Gunns’ Tamar Valley Pulp Mill very soon, as the Tasmanian community needs to see the death of this corrupted project and move on to creating an environmentally sustainable future.


Just some quick question to members of PULP THE MILL. 1. Do you drive around in cars ? you know those polluting things that make your life some much easier but emit CO2. 2. Do you wipe your bottoms with toilet paper ? You know the stuff they make from pulp. 3. Have you looked across the river from the pulp mill and seen the alumina refinery ? So it's OK but the pulp mill isn't Bet you 10 dollars this will not get published. Oh Mr Pilger would be so disappointed. What happened to freedom of speech ? or is it only your opinion you want published !
'Hypocrisy' misses the point entirely. As well as trotting out the same tired old arguments that really are quite meaningless in the context of this article, and what Pulp the Mill is challenging. Which actually goes straight to the heart of what is considered democracy in this country. If 'Hypocrisy' reads the piece again, he/she might like to reflect that what is being legally questioned is the validity of the political process that saw this undeniably flawed development approved in the first place. And then seven years later having to legally question why a number of irrefutably expired permits relating to the start of construction for this deeply controversial project, are able to be ignored. And all because our state government is too lazy, too cowed, or too uninterested to do what should after all be its job. Quite apart from Gunns' proposed pulp mill being completely inappropriate for the Tamar Valley - or indeed, ANYWHERE - it is the corrupted approval process, the cronyism, the massive amount of public money that has been spent promoting this private company's project, that is the reason so many people have been, and still are, totally and completely opposed to it. The community will never stop fighting to ensure this stinking, polluting mill is never built.
How can you hope for anyone to take you seriously enough to respond to your questions if you do not have the guts to put your name to them? Karen Weldrick
The highly flawed and opportunistic "hypocrisy" has began to churn out the usual diatribe to support the rotten egg processes engaged in by Gunns Ltd. There is a hope that this State's jurisdiction will not suffer under the dubiousity of hung juries and other such ridiculous outcomes that are indigenous to this particular State? I quote a particularly controversial Supreme Court judgement whereby the auspices of that court allows the "clear cut case" police charges to be laid against 2 individuals acting in conspiracy, one of the 2 individuals found guilty as charged, the other to forever celebrate the mysterious coincidence of being the recipient of 2 hung juries. it is important to recollect that each of the juries, "whom by their confusion in having to specify or determine some degree of criminal intent," were unable to satisfy the call of the Supreme Court Judge presiding over this still hovering in our atmosphere unconvincing resultant outcome. William Boeder.
YOU GREENIES just don't get it do you. the problem is not the pulp mill, it is that you greenies uses pulp mill products to wipe your bottoms ( Gunns or any other pulp mill doesn't matter) The problem is not the big polluters they are nearly a reflection of your ( our ! modern lifestyles ) you drive cars don't you, have fridges, go on holidays even have websites yeap all that stuff is consumption and the big polluters are just a sign of this they are not the problem. Ever meet a greenie without a mobile phone yeap using up the earths precious resources but for what, everytime it is charge more CO2 into the atmosphere. Look at and chage your lifestyles and the big polluters won't have a market.
It you who just doesn't seem to get it. If the people who live in Tasmania win their campaign against this toxic pulp mill being built in the pristine Tamar Valley it will preserve the quality of their lives and of the environmental that they are a part of. This pulp mill is not on the table because of consumer demand. We are not facing a toilet paper drought in Australia ... have you noticed this? Gunns wants to make a profit on its investment. That is the only reason why the pulp mill is still on the table ... some rich people want to get a lot richer. What gives Gunns the right to ignore the wishes of a community? Why can one company override the wishes of thousands of families and debase our ecosystems for profit? What right does Gunns have to build a mill that will destroy other industries in the area ... fishing, tourism, farmlands. And why should taxpayers money be spent on financing this company, as has happened.
Sometimes I wonder if comments made by people such as anonymous 11-10-11 8:15pm are just put there by publishers to make me think that supporters of the mill are just a bunch of morons. Or have I just been away from Tasmania too long.
A petition has just been launched on the Avaaz Petition Site. It's called: Stop the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill from being built. Why this is important?? Australian timber giant Gunns is trying to build a massive polluting pulp mill in the pristine rural area of Tasmania's Tamar Valley, despite overwhelming local opposition I really care about this issue and together we can do something about it! Every person who signs helps get us closer to the goal of 100 signatures -- can you help out by signing? Can you please include this request to sigh the petition on youur website? Click here to read more about it and sign or paste into your browser http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_the_Tamar_Valley_Pulp_Mill_from_being_built/?launch Campaigns like this always start small, but they grow when people like us get involved -- please take a second right now to help out by signing and passing it on. Thanks so much, Cheers, T ________________________________________

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