“We have been betrayed by our members of parliament,” ABC television personality Peter Cundell told a rally of more than 1500 people protesting against the proposed Gunns Ltd pulp mill on March 20.
“They have betrayed the very people they are supposed to represent. This is only the beginning ... We are going to defeat this mill, make no mistake about it.”
The rally was held in the Tamar Valley, not far from the site of the proposed mill. It was one of a series of rallies planned to mobilise opposition to the approval process in which federal environment minister Tony Burke recently lent his support to the mill.
This is despite concerns of its effects on the valley and Bass Strait environments.
The fast-tracking of the approval process has led to accusations from community groups that the Tasmanian government is hand-in-glove with the timber industry. Concerns from residents of the Tamar Valley have been ignored.
Tasmanian Greens MP for Bass, Kim Booth, told the rally the Greens had recently put a motion in state parliament to note that there has been no assessment of air quality, aerial spraying in the water catchment or increased traffic through the area. However, the Labor and Liberal parties refused to even vote for a motion to note that no assessment had been carried out.
Friends of Tamar Valley spokesperson Anne Leyton-Bennett told the crowd the mill “risks jeopardising the environmental, economic and social health of the region [and] its natural beauty ... threatening our collective health and wellbeing”.
Surfriders spokesperson Peter Whish-Wilson spoke of the effect the ocean effluent pipe would have on the marine environment. He said Gunns' assessment of its impact was inadequate.
“It is not acceptable for any company to use the ocean as a dumping ground for their waste,” he said.
Local author Richard Flanagan said Gunns needed the input of other financial backers to get its project off the ground. He disputed the forestry industry’s propaganda that says the pulp mill will mean a large increase in jobs and revenue.
Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre state secretary Trudy Maluga said: "It's not about the money. It's about our homes, our children and our future."
Other speakers warned that the government may be pressured to provide the money needed to get the mill started, warning that any such action would cause a rise in public opposition.
Speakers and participants vowed to step up the pressure on the government to stop the construction of the mill.
The rally was also addressed by representatives from Citizens Opposed to the Destruction of the Environment, The Wilderness Society and TAP into a Better Tasmania.