Despite great public outcry, numerous signed petitions, protest marches involving thousands of anguished locals and countless letters to local and state government officials plans to go ahead with Gunns Ltd. pulp mill have been approved by Australia’s federal government. Prime Minister John Howard has supported and defended Environment Minister Malcolm Turnball’s decision to go forward with the proposed Tasmanian pulp mill, citing new employment opportunities and improved local economy as reason enough to overlook any pressing environmental concerns.
However the mill will be located on the banks of the beautiful Tamar River, close to Tasmania’s second largest city Launceston and a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. The chemical pulp mill has already had 24 extra environmental conditions imposed upon it, due to the enormous amount of eco-issues surrounding it’s construction and subsequent operation. Once these issues have been dealt with the construction may begin. Dr. Jim Peacock, Commonwealth Chief Scientist, who imposed these particular conditions still has fears about the possibility of potential toxic run-off.
Gunns Ltd. have already failed to ensure that adequate baseline studies have been carried out with the modeling of possible effluents and their negative effects on Tamar’s natural estuary. Oceanography studies have shown that effluents are extremely likely to be blown back to shore and Gunns Ltd. should revise their original plans. The 64,000 tons of effluent said to be discharged into the Bass Strait everyday will contain a small amount of dioxins and furans which will eventually affect and damage every ocean organism, from small fish to the large and well loved giant crayfish. Obviously it will also damage Australia’s fishing industry’s relatively clean reputation as suppliers and exporters of uncontaminated seafood.
The pulp mill, which will initially rely on 80% of native forest will devastate areas in the Great Western Tiers and the North East Highlands. The new chemical pulp mill combined with already existing mills will more than double the rate of woodchipping in Tasmania. The 4 million tons of wood that will be used for pulping each year combined with the 500,00 tons of wood used for burning to generate power equals alot of native forests, not to mention pollution. Over a period of 25 years of logging native forest the same amount of greenhouse gases, or CO2 will be produced as emitted from all the cars, trucks and buses in Tasmania over 80 years.
The pulp mill will also consume more fresh water than almost any other industry. From 26 to 40 billion litres per year. Natural habitats will be threatened and localized extinction is predicted to occur with endangered species such as the Tasmanian Wedge Tailed Eagle and the Spotted Tail Quoll forced to find safer places to exist.
The pulp mill is another fine example of the people versus the power. It seems that even with absolutely no support for the construction and subsequent waste of surrounding native forests, even with the public clamoring for a no vote from the government, the politicians and (sinister) ministers seem to have voted for the corporate boys. Another classic example of our democracy? Or a clear cut case of currency before environmental consideration.