TAP INTO A BETTER TASMANIA (TAP)
TASMANIAN PUBLIC and ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH NETWORK (TPEHN)
Joint Media Release Wednesday March 23rd 2011
Community Groups TAP and TPEHN join in condemning the ‘forest principle agreement’ because it is very specifically tied to the delivery of the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill.
As reported in The Australian yesterday, Bill Kelty said ‘green’ groups must strike a deal on the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill or miss out on permanent protection of 565000 hectares of native forest.
“There you have it. This is what the ‘roundtable’ negotiations have been about all along,” commented Dr Alison Bleaney of TPEHN.
“From the point of view of Gunns and the Labor Party, the forest ‘roundtable’ was about delivering the Longreach pulp mill. From the ENGO’s side it was about delivering protection to native forest. They were the two glittering prizes up for grabs and to pretend otherwise is misleading,” said TAP spokesperson Bob McMahon.
“In order for both sides to get what they wanted it was important to exclude the community first and foremost. Why? Because it was expected that the community would be opposed to any trade-off of the sort so bluntly expressed by Kelty”, continued McMahon.
“After all, the community was going to have to pay the price for the sort of deal the forest industry negotiators had in mind. The community had to be sidelined and kept in the dark. Thus the secrecy. We were the sacrifice.
“That the blatantly undemocratic, rigged and secret ‘roundtable’ negotiations and the ‘forest principles’ that resulted (including in principle support for plantations and ‘a pulp mill’) received the enthusiastic support of the ALP is no surprise.
“That the Greens have also been enthusiastic supporters of the undemocratic negotiations as constituted, and the ‘forest principles’ that resulted from the illegitimate process, is deeply distressing for the community and incredibly damaging to the Greens themselves,” said McMahon.
“Kelty has made it abundantly clear that the success of the Gunns/ALP pulp mill is dependent on the signing of the ‘forest principles agreement’,” said Dr. Bleaney.
“Therefore, both TAP and TPEHN, demand that The Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania and Australian Conservation Foundation either refuse to sign the agreement as it exists or insist that the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill be specifically excluded from the agreement as a principle.
“We expect many other community groups will join us in making this demand”.
“It is not too late for the Greens to redeem themselves either”, confirmed Bob McMahon. “They will have to stop the doublethink and unequivocally withdraw their support for the ‘forest principles’ as they stand and the illegitimate roundtable process which produced them. It is not good enough for the Greens to say they do not support the Tamar Valley pulp mill while supporting a process designed from the very beginning to deliver that very same pulp mill.
“Dr Bleaney and I want to put this bizarre chapter of Tasmanian history into context. This is a monumental issue of social justice. Should the environment groups sign up to the ‘forest principles’ deal as it currently exists it will be viewed as a great betrayal of current and future generations of Tasmanians, whose social, economic and environmental horizons will be severely diminished and restricted by the demands Gunns mill will place on our basic resources of land and water and of the huge public subsidies the mill will need in order to compete against cheaper producers in developing countries.
First published: 2011-03-24 05:52 AM
Sue Neales, Mercury comment
... Unless Gunns gives up its wood supply rights to 220,000 cubic metres of this annual native timber allocation obtained from Forestry Tasmania, FT will not be able to set aside the 572,000 hectares of high-conservation forests for protection desired by green groups, because there would simply not be enough forest “left” for FT to meet its wood supply obligations to customers such as Gunns.
However, if Gunns agrees to forfeit its massive native wood supply contracts – probably with a compensation price tag of more than $200 million attached, to be paid by the Federal Government – then Forestry Tasmania and the State Government will have forests to spare to “give” to environmentalists for new national parks and reserves.
But Gunns has made it plain that it will only give up its native wood entitlements if its plantation-only pulp mill gets the green light, preferably enshrined within a final forest peace talk agreement ticked off by the powerful environment groups sitting at the negotiating table.
Gunns chief executive Greg L’Estrange has already said that if no peace deal eventuates that includes a plantation-timber-only pulp mill as an integral part, he will take it as a signal that the Tasmanian community wants native forest logging to continue unabated.
Kelty also made it plain at his Tuesday press conference that he was not referring to any mythical or future pulp mill when he said it must be part of any successful forest peace pact.
As Gunns and the timber industry have always said, there is only one pulp mill around, and that is Gunns’ amended project in the Tamar Valley.
It is “THE” pulp mill.
Not “a” pulp mill as the Wilderness Society, for example, has always contended it has been prepared to agree to in principle.
That is the deal Kelty laid out on Tuesday, when he essentially put his cards on the table.
Interestingly, it’s not such a dissimilar position to that put by Premier Lara Giddings, when she last month said – in what others have called her “Marie Antoinette moment” – the $2.5 billion pulp mill no longer represented the “icing” on the cake of the Tasmanian economy, but had become the cake itself.
The question now for the green groups is: What is the ultimate price of saving or protecting such a massive new area of old-growth forests?
Is attaining such a once-off glittering prize – one environmental groups such as the Wilderness Society have fought hard deep in the dark forests for three decades to achieve – worth the sacrifice of the Tamar Valley pulp mill?
Kelty is under no illusions that his game play this week was a high-stakes gamble.
He well knows that the forests-for-the-pulp-mill swap could be a deal-breaker, forcing the environment groups to walk out of the historic peace talks.
The next poker call is now firmly back in the hands of the green groups, when Kelty delivers his interim report to Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke in Canberra this week.
(As an aside, it is interesting to note it is Burke, a close factional ally of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the powerful CFMEU, who has been nominated as the Federal Government’s lead player in these Tassie forest peace talks rather than Forests Minister Joe Ludwig).
What the environment groups now have to decide is which option is the lesser of two evils.
Without a final peace agreement signed by June 30, the forest industry is likely to spiral into chaos, with economic and market forces alone dictating what and how the timber industry survives in Tasmania, if at all ...
Socialist Alliance opposes Gunns’ pulp mill, calls for referendum
24 March 2011
Socialist Alliance condemns the recent decision by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to give final approval to Gunn’s Tamar Valley pulp mill. Socialist Alliance also opposes the decision by the State government to continue propping up the mill by promising to build mill-related infrastructure for Gunns.
“We could never support the Gunns pulp mill in the Tamar Valley , due to the corrupt nature with which it was approved,” said Susan Austin, Socialist Alliance spokesperson. “In addition we oppose it because of its likely toxic effects on the environment and the community.”
Socialist Alliance joins with other community and environment groups in expressing grave concern about water usage, toxic effluent, odours, air pollution, greenhouse emissions, wood-fired power processes and the intensification of an already-harmful plantation industry in the state.
“The permits for the mill must be revoked by the state and federal governments. Approval for any pulp mill needs to pass a rigorous, independent scientific assessment, such as the RPDC,” Austin said.
“Further, we acknowledge that there have been serious social and environmental issues concerned with pulp mills in general, wherever they have been built and therefore we believe that this and all other pulp mill proposals should in addition be subjected to a Tasmania wide referendum. This is a much more accurate way to determine the social license for any pulp mill and will allow everyone to have a say about whether we want a pulp mill or not,” said Austin.
Socialist Alliance also supports campaigns around the world by other communities who are also battling similar pulp mills.
“There will be no jobs on a dead planet. There are many ways that the government can support jobs and the environment, but supporting this toxic, job-poor project is definitely not one of them!” Austin concluded.
Thursday 24th March
“Peace in the Forests”: Vigil Day 9
12-1pm, Executive Building 17 Murray St, Hobart
Thursday 24th March sees Day 9 of the forest vigil outside of the executive offices of Lara Giddings and Bryan Green. The Black Sassy Artists Collective will be bringing the beauty and intrinsic value of the forests to the gathering with art, poetry and song. The Black Sassy Collective is the artistic arm of the Huon Valley Environment Centre, and creates community events and art exhibitions that educate and inspire people to work towards protecting our remaining wild places.
A forest shrine will be erected displaying images of threatened forests and community artworks, and there will be songs and poetry inspired by the forests and the campaign to protect them.
“It is important to bring the forests into the city and into the public eye because people must realise what is being lost everyday as Government inaction prevents them from being protected,” Nicole Pietsch from Black Sassy Collective said.
“Many people in our community don’t see the forest as dollar signs and as a resource to be exploited - we see it as a beautiful, vibrant, biodiverse, life giving ecosytem that we depend on for our survival on this planet.” Nicole Pietsch said.
“Forests help provide the air we breathe, they are invaluable water catchments, they provide habitat for endangered species, they provide solace and refuge for humans, and the wildness they embody is the very reason why so many people choose to live in Tasmania. We must not forget what makes this island special, and we must do what we can to urge the Government to protect it.” Nicole Pietsch said.
Tomorrow, a large show of support for the moratorium to be in place is being planned for the last day of the vigil. And yesterday in the far south of Tasmania, five conservationists were arrested after attaching themselves to logging machinery in an old growth forest.