So the question about how the pipelines are going to be built on both sides of the Tamar River remains unanswered, at least as far as the public is concerned.

At the risk of being repetitious about this, none of the major players, including Gunns, the government, the opposition, relevant local councils and the local media, are talking about the pipelines.  Why not? 

As far as West Tamar residents have any knowledge of how the pipeline was to be built from the Trevallyn dam to the Tamar River, the present status of information is that the West Tamar Council declined to give Gunns approval to build the pipeline across land owned by the municipality.

As far as the public has knowledge of how the pipeline is to be built along the East Tamar to Bell Bay, a number of landowners have refused to allow their land to be used after many months of negotiation with Gunns. 

David Bartlett has stated repeatedly that the Tasmanian Government will not legislate to compulsorily acquire the land.

So, on the face of it, it appears really odd that the acquisition of land on both sides of the Tamar seems not to be an issue in the halls of power and influence.  It could be, of course, that that is simply the result of an ineffectual and compliant local media.  After all, it was only shortly after the passage through Parliament of the shameful PMAA in 2007, when the Mercury’s Sue Neales asked then Premier Paul Lennon about funding for the pipelines, that the public learnt that Lennon intended using millions of dollars of taxpayers money for the infrastructure.

Perhaps therefore, when Bartlett says that there will be no more legislative requirements for the pulp mill to be built, we should take him as his word, and pay careful attention to what he is not saying.

For example, in relation to the pipeline from Trevallyn dam to the Tamar River, if the new planning legislation does in fact change land use regulations in a way which overrides local council decisions about land use on property owned by a municipality, then it is likely that this has been known for some time (albeit not by the general public).

It is also possible that the proposed new legislation dealing with “projects of regional significance” might be applicable to the pipelines.  In either case, Bartlett could say that no new planning reforms are designed for Gunns’ mill, because the new planning laws are designed for statewide application across all regional developments which fall within the terms encompassed by the legislation.  He could always say that it just happened that the pipelines fell within the scope of the new planning laws, by coincidence of the pipelines meeting the necessary criteria for projects of regional significance.

This is different to saying that the planning laws were drafted with Gunns’ interests in mind, but still nevertheless being, as it were, enabling legislation.

However, irrespective of whether the new planning legislation will or will not assist Gunns in gaining control over land it needs to build its pipelines, this does not necessarily explain the silence about how the pipelines are to be built.

Put it this way.  What is to stop Gunns building the pipeline from Trevallyn dam to the Tamar River?  They already have planning approval.  They also have legal opinion (contested) that they can build without council approval.  Why can’t they just go ahead and build it, even if it is subsequently found to be illegal?  I can’t answer that question, but it a question which does need an answer.

In relation to land on the east Tamar, I would suggest that Gunns, the government and the opposition already know how they are going to get control of the land from people who are not willing to give permission for the pipelines.  That is why there is silence on the matter.

Bartlett and Llewellyn both know how the pipelines are going to be built.  It is only the public that doesn’t know.  But the government is not going to show its hand on this matter until Gunns has got all the funding arrangements in place.

The fact is that people have been bluffed by Gunns withdrawal from the RPDC into considering that the company didn’t pay adequate attention to how they would get their pipelines built, because they threw away the entitlement under a project of State significance for compulsory acquisition of land.

I don’t believe that for a moment.  It is why I wrote recently about David Llewellyn’s responsibility to the people, as an “elected representative” to inform us all how this is going to be done. 

The question that now needs to be asked of David Bartlett by the local media, if they have any intention of finding out what is going on in relation to the pipelines, is quite simple.

It is this:

“If no new planning reforms or new legislation is required for Gunns to build its pipelines on both sides of the Tamar River, and the West Tamar Council and east Tamar landowners refuse to give permission for the pipelines to go across their land, how are those pipelines going to be built?”  It is a question which he has to answer, in full transparency.

Peter Henning

Peter Henning
LESS than a week after David Llewellyn welcomed Gunns’ claims that there would be an announcement about a joint-venture partner to build the pulp mill before the end of June, David Bartlett has stated that there will be no more taxpayer dollars or planning reforms to assist the mill.

Bartlett was reported as saying “Absolutely not.  Rule it out one hundred per cent”.