Amid all the controversy surrounding the federal Government's pending decision over the new Gunns’ pulp mill, one fact has been overlooked: continuing to add value to Tasmania's regrowth forest and plantation resource is vitally important for securing the long-term wellbeing of timber families and their communities.
The Bell Bay pulp mill proposal builds on recent investments in new rotary veneer mills and substantial upgrades of sawmills throughout Tasmania. It is another big step forward in the value-adding journey.
Timber Communities Australia has conducted extensive research during the past four years to confirm that the science behind the project is sound and the mill will be of great benefit to Tasmania.
Following the demise of the previous proposal for a pulp mill at Wesley Vale, the then federal Labor government charged the CSIRO to develop, with public input, environmental guidelines for any future kraft pulp mill.
In 2004 the Tasmanian Government authorised the Resource Planning and Development Commission to review and update these guidelines with extensive public and scientific engagement. The World Bank recognised these guidelines as appropriate.
Bell Bay is the right location. It is home to Tasmania's largest industrial estate, including an aluminium smelter, ferro-alloy processing plant, power station and various timber processing operations, and is the main shipping port in northern Tasmania. The proposed pulp mill site is next to two operating woodchip mills on land zoned heavy industrial with an existing deep-water port.
It is important to note that Bell Bay's existing heavy industrial activity has not been a deterrent to the continued growth of the valued wine, tourism and fish-farming sectors throughout the Tamar Valley.
With the addition of an elemental chlorine-free pulp mill, this co-existence can continue. Our research shows that, throughout the world, pulp mills do coexist in harmony with wine and tourism, perhaps none more evident than in France.
The Bordeaux and Provence regions of southern France, for instance, are world leaders in tourism-based fine wine production. Each year Bordeaux alone produces 850million bottles of fine wine and attracts three million tourists. Both regions are also home to extensive industrial forestry, including a wide range of pulp and paper mills.
Sadly, these facts are ignored by opponents to the Tasmanian project.
The traditional politically motivated anti-forestry forces gathered to oppose the project.
It was clear they had one goal: to destroy the project with whatever means possible. The RPDC assessment process was attacked, including being bogged down in legal argument from the Tasmanian and Australian Greens directed towards an RPDC assessment panel member for apprehended bias.
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