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SURFRIDER AUSTRALIA MEETS WITH SHADOW ENVIRO MINISTER PETER GARRETT RE: GUNNS PULP MILL FIGHT

July 24 2007 |
by Surfrider Foundation International Program

SURFRIDER FOUNDATION AUSTRALIA (SFA) NORTHERN TASMANIA BRANCH

Media enquiries:
Dr. Thomas Moore
P: +61 409681127
E: thomasmoore@netspace.net.au


MEDIA RELEASE

July 23, 2007

SURFRIDERS MEET WITH PETER GARRETT TO DISCUSS PULP MILL CONCERNS

Launceston, Tasmania
– Representatives from Surfrider Foundation Australia (SFA) travelled to Sydney last week to meet with the Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Heritage, Peter Garrett MP, to discuss the proposed Gunns Ltd Tamar Valley pulp mill. The trip was just one step in a long journey for Tasmanian surfers Dr. Thomas Moore and Peter Whish-Wilson who, along with a team of local and international volunteers, have been both campaigning for and conducting independent and transparent scientific assessments of the proposed pulp mill’s marine impacts for over two years.

"We were stoked Peter gave us 30 minutes of his time to listen to our concerns. As an outspoken champion of environmental issues he is a hero to our generation, and I told him so." said SFA Northern Tasmania President, Peter Whish-Wilson. "We let him know that Tasmanians would like to see him in the State very soon and that we feel there is an opportunity to show some leadership on the assessment process at a Federal level.”

SFA appreciated the opportunity to brief Mr. Garrett on our research into the proposed mill’s effluent discharge and highlight our concerns for potential impacts on the marine environment, marine industries, coastal amenity, and indeed human health.

SFA clearly expressed our lack of confidence in both the State and Federal assessment processes currently underway and our alarm at the apparent lack of probity, transparency, and scientific rigor in the wake of the proponent’s March 2007 exit from the Federally accredited Tasmanian Resource Planning and Development Commission (RPDC) assessment process.

Mr. Garret welcomed the opportunity to listen to SFA, is acutely aware of the level of public concern, and is clearly examining this issue very closely. Mr. Garrett is already on the record (May 18, 2007 - “Need for More Transparency on Pulp Mill”) saying in part:

“The [Federal] assessment process for the pulp mill – an assessment on preliminary documentation – is one of the less comprehensive assessment options under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Under the Act, the Minister could have requested further information from the proponent, but has chosen not to do so. This is disappointing given the scale of the project. It is not clear that the chosen assessment process will properly accommodate the very high level of public interest concerning this proposal. The Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments have a responsibility to ensure public confidence is maintained in the planning system.”

Aside from the establishment of a new assessment mechanism and the restoration of public confidence, SFA’s position is that the only appropriate option for the proponent is to adopt a closed-cycle process, eliminating the need for disposal of 30 GL / year of mill effluent into Bass Strait coastal waters.

SFA is currently scrutinizing Gunns Ltd’s recently released “Response to EPBC Submissions Document” and we look forward to further communication with Mr. Garrett and his office on these issues of national environmental significance.

/ENDS
ONLINE REFERENCES:
Peter Garrett, MP (Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Heritage) Media Statement, May
18, 2007 - “Need for More Transparency on Pulp Mill” - http://www.petergarrett.com.au/c.asp?id=343

BACKGROUND
SFA is not opposed to downstream processing of forest products in Tasmania but maintains we must be absolutely sure that any development is benign to the environment, other industries, coastal amenity, and indeed human health.
The proposed Gunns Ltd pulp mill in the Tamar Valley will discharge up to 30 GL (“Giga-litres” = billion litres) of process effluent per annum into Bass Strait, approximately 2.7 km off Five Mile Bluff.1

The discharged mill effluent will contain numerous pollutants including highly toxic and persistent compounds such as dioxins and furans.2 Hydrodynamic modeling, the numerical representation of the ocean and its fluid processes, wholly underpins our understanding of the possible fate of such pollutants and their potential impacts on the marine ecosystem, marine industries, coastal amenity, and human health.

Since November 2005 SFA Northern Tasmania has taken an active and constructive role on this issue, participating in good faith with the Tasmanian RPDC assessment of the proposed Gunns Ltd pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. In September 2006 SFA Northern Tasmania delivered a 48 page submission to the Resource Planning and Development Commission (RPDC) which, among other significant concerns, concluded that the Gunns Ltd. hydrodynamic modelling was inadequate. The SFA RPDC submission made a number of
recommendations for required analyses and revised modelling that are echoed in the Sweco Pic report released on July 5th, 2007.

The Sweco Pic report, and specifically the associated report from Patterson Britton & Partners Pty Ltd., state that the Gunns Ltd. modelling “appears to be producing unrealistically high daily flushing and dispersion of pollutants in the vicinity of the outfall” and that appropriate modelling of the long term fate of pollutants coupled to particulate matter from both the discharged effluent and natural Tamar River sediment plumes “has not been carried out” and “not been examined”.
On April 18th, 2007 SFA Northern Tasmania wrote to the Minister for the Environment, Malcom Turnbull, and his Department regarding the deficiencies in Gunns Ltd analyses and reports. SFA urged Minister Turnbull to therefore reject Gunns Ltd’s call for an EPBC assessment based solely on “desktop” analysis and “preliminary information”. SFA Northern Tasmania urged Minister Turnbull, in the strongest terms possible, to choose an EPBC assessment process that would provide an appropriate level of transparency and scrutiny, ensure the protection of the marine environment, and restore public confidence. This red flag from SFA was apparently ignored by Minister Turnbull.

ABOUT THE SURFRIDER FOUNDATION:A HISTORY OF TACKLING POLLUTING PULP MILLS

Surfrider is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of Australia's oceans, waves and beaches for all people through Conservation, Advocacy, Research and Education (CARE). We have 29 branches nationwide, international affiliates in the USA, Japan, Brazil and Europe, and over 100,000 members worldwide.

1 Gunns Ltd Draft IIS (V18 A63), Hydrodynamic Modelling, GHD, July 2006 (incorrectly labeled March 2006)
2 BELL BAY PULP MILL PROJECT IMPACT ASSESSMENT for assessment under the EPBC Act 1999, Gunns Ltd.,
2007
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