August 30, 2007 | Graham

Journalists’ reputations pulped

I’ve been vaguely following the Gunns’ pulp mill saga, biased against the project by the company’s ham-fisted public relations strategies. It’s hard to feel sympathetic for an organisation that bullies everyone the way that Gunns does.
This morning I decided to have a closer look at one point in the controversy – that the mill will ruin the “pristine” Tamar Valley. As a result I’ve come to the conclusion that Alan Ramsey and Louise Evans plus some of their broadcast colleagues whose prose doesn’t appear on the ‘net should be sent on gardening leave. Well, what else should you do with an environmentally gullible journalist who fails the most basic of fact-checking tests?
My cue that the Tamar Valley is not “pristine” came when Fran Kelly put the proposition to Premier Paul Lennon. He snorted, told her to do her homework, and pointed out that the proposed pulp mill would be built next to Rio Tinto’s aluminium smelter.
“Surely he’s exaggerating,” I thought. Afterall, how could anyone seriously argue that a pulp mill was going to destroy the rural tranquility of a district of orchards and wineries if it already had an aluminium smelter? Yet that is exactly what Cousins and his band of Wentworth dilletantes is claiming.
Well, thankfully Google earth was at hand. So you can see exactly where the mill is going to be built. I’ve put a huge black spot on the photo to indicate the site, but if you want something more elegant you can check out the map on the Federal Government’s website.
You can click on the map and go to Google Earth, but to save you the trouble, I’ve reproduced the satellite image of the building just to the south-east of the Gunn’s site below.
I also unearthed a few other things. According to the George Town Council Strategic Plan 2007-2012 Bell Bay, where the mill is to be built is “The shipping entrance to Tasmania with the most important concentration of heavy industry in the north.” The area is specifically zoned “Major Industrial Zone” in the current “Planning Scheme”, the purposes of this zone are:

5.9.1 Purpose

  • The Bell Bay Major Industrial Zone represents a unique opportunity to identify and make available land suitable for the expansion of industrial use and development at Bell Bay and its consolidation as one of the principal industrial estates in the State.
  • The inherent qualities of this ara for industrial use and development including its deep waters, anchorages, existing transport infrastructure, availability of services and the separation from incompatible uses, are recognised by this zoning.
  • The intent of this zone is to promote the use of the area as a strategic location and clear focus for the establishment of major industries for value added resource processing and requiring the locational advantages the site has to offer.
  • The provisions of this zone also establishes a framework for the provision of major infrastructure services and the preparation of a Development Plan to provide the detailed controls to further guide developments.
  • The establishment and ongoing monitoring of industries will be subject to the appropriate environmental approvals under the Environmental Protection Act 9173. Quantified risk assessment shall be performed on proposed industrial developments.

Permtted uses include timber mill, hazardous industry and noxious industry.
Bell Bay already houses not one, but two smelters. The Rio Tinto aluminium smelter was built in 1955, and there is also a magnesium smelter owned by Temco which was commissioned in 1962.
The reason for all this heavy industry is quite clear. The Tamar River offers a good deep water port (no doubt the reason George Town was the first town to be settled in Tasmania) with access to abundant cheap hydro-electricity. The industry has been there for about 50 years, and the local community is actively looking for more of it. If you were planning a pulp mill there could hardly be a better spot. What’s more, the area is so settled that only an idiot, or someone who hadn’t even bothered with the minimum of research, could call it “pristine”.

Posted by Graham at 2:18 pm | Comments Off on Journalists’ reputations pulped |
Filed under: Australian Politics

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