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Legal Challenge Looms OverTasmaniaTrees Milling

The Wilderness Society To Mount Legal Challenge Over Gunn Milling Proposal

The Wilderness Society will mount a legal challenge against a decision by the Federal Government not to assess the impact of Gunns’ proposed pulpmill on Tasmania’s forests.

The action will be taken in the Federal Court under the Administrative Decision Judicial Review Act.

“The proposed pulpmill will consume more than three million tonnes of Tasmanian wood each year,” said National Forest Campaigner for the Society, Sean Cadman. “Yet the Government has chosen not to assess the impacts of the mill on the forests or taken account of the fact that woodchip production is set to rise to a massive 7 million tonnes.”

The Federal Government’s stated reason for not assessing the impact on forests is that there is a Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) in place, and the relevant federal environment laws have deemed that the RFA takes into account the impacts on the forests. But the Wilderness Society says there is a disparity between the life of the pulpmill and the life of the RFA.

“The proposed pulpmill will have a lifetime of about 30 years,” he said. “Yet the current Regional Forest Agreement expires in 2017. Therefore the impacts of the mill beyond 2017 can’t be assessed.”

Mr Cadman said that Gunns’ decision to locate the mill at Bell Bay rather than at the alternative site at Hampshire in NW Tasmania has aroused massive concerns about the impact of the mill on the state’s forests, particularly in the north. Hampshire is on the doorstep of over 60,000 hectares of Gunns’ hardwood plantations. Bell Bay, however, is on the doorstep of large tracts of native forest.

“An independent report carried out by scientists at Melbourne University and Forestry Tasmania has found there is a 97% chance that the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle will be driven to extinction in north-east Tasmania if proposed forestry and land-clearing operations proceed. It is unacceptable that the Federal Government is not looking at this possible impact of the mill on the habitat of this and other endangered species.”

The Wilderness Society has taken legal advice on the decision of the Federal Environment Minister. The Society has applied for a judicial review of the Minister’s decision in so far as it has failed to take into account the impacts of the pulpmill on Tasmania’s forests beyond the life of the current Regional Forestry Agreement (RFA).

The application seeks to have the federal court set aside the decision in so far as it fails to refer to impacts on Tasmania’s forests, and seeks an order to direct the Minister to re-designate the pulpmill proposal as a controlled action on the existing grounds with the addition of the impacts of logging of the forests to feed the pulpmill after 2017. Assessment of the forests should include impacts on World Heritage, RAMSAR wetlands and threatened species.

“We are not opposed to a pulp mill in Tasmania, but we are opposed to this one. Bell Bay is the wrong place; it will use massive amounts of native forest; and as result, it will require chlorine bleaching, which produces organochlorines and a range of other toxic compounds.”


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