Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Comment on the Pulp Mill Permit saga.

"The amendment of the Pulp Mill Assessment Act means that regulators can be certain that, should Gunns not have substantially commenced the project by 30 August 2011, the pulp mill permit lapses and Gunns' authority to build and operate the pulp mill is extinguished." Mr David Llewellyn PULP MILL ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT (CLARIFICATION) BILL 2009 (No. 102) Second Reading 5th November 2009

It beggars belief that the EPA director is unsure if Gunns lack of project finance is relevant to a determination on whether the $2.5B pulp mill project has been substantially commenced (listen from 1.10 remaining in ABC Drive Northern Tasmania interview). Common sense would dictate that having the money to build the project/house you have a permit for would be fundamental.
What would the local council do about a lapsed permit to build a house if i told them "oh i've got the land alright and have done a bit of clearing, but i've got no money to build my house, despite having scoured the world for a loan for the last 7 years"?
Should we expect any reasonable planning body to extend a permit under such circumstances?
The excuse (curiously reinforced by ABC drive presenter Roisin McCann in what was an all too chummy interview on an issue for which many have a serious stake) given by the EPA director for the Government's professed inability to have an enforceable definition of Substantial Commencement and therefore be able to enforce the legislation they created (PULP MILL ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT CLARIFICATION BILL 2009) is that government did not for see Gunns not having commenced construction by the time permits lapsed.
If we accept this reason then it highlights the seriously shoddy and more concerning - the rubbery nature of the hastily cobbled together PMAA and the willingness for an avowed pro pulp mill government and opposition to vote for seriously flawed legislation.
As someone else wrote recently on the issue of pulp mill permits "if nobody knows for sure what “substantial commencement” really is then why was legislation containing such a term enacted in the first place?
Going on past form the EPA will toe the government line and rule that Gunns have susbtantially commenced construction of the pulp mill. Despite there being no sign of a pulp mill being built at Longreach, despite Gunns having no project finance, being massively in debt and in a trading suspension.
The reason why the Government have bizzarely abrogated its responsibility and refused to rule on substantial commencement or at the very least rule against activity on site until substantial commencment has been defined is the same reason why the Govt. pulled the Pulp Mill project from the RPDC 4 years ago.
Because the Tasmanian Government and Liberal opposition make decisions on the pulp mill based on their own party political self interest and Gunns interests and not on proper process.
The Tasmanian Government could not live with its the statutory planning body it created and charged with assessing the pulp mill - The RPDC - So they sidelined it. Now the same Government cant even live with its own biased fast track legislation which replaced the RPDC.
Most Tasmanians could answer this question. Because the Tasmanian Government was only ever been prepared to accept one outcome on the Pulp Mill.
Tasmanians see this very clearly and therein lies the reason why they are all so cynical about this project.
Make no mistake, Tasmanians are being set up by the government yes men as they construct an argument based on weasel words which will tell us the sky is pink even though we can all clearly see it is blue.

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