By Chris Lang (July 2007):
Tasmania’s Clean Green Future: Too Precious to Pulp? is a new film produced by The Wilderness Society. The short film reports on the social, environmental and economic impacts of Gunns’ proposed pulp mill in Tasmania.
“To inform the public debate I have made a film about the pulp mill’s significant environmental, economic and health impacts. Gunns, the Tasmanian Government and the Federal Government have so far tried to ignore these impacts by pushing ahead with fast-track assessments that overlook community concerns”, says Heidi Douglas, the award-winning film-maker who made the film.
“This new film represents a courageous move by Heidi, a filmmaker who is already being sued by Gunns for half a million dollars for documenting the Tasmanian forest campaign,” says Geoff Law, campaign coordinator for The Wilderness Society.
The film shows the impact of logging Tasmania’s forests. Early on the camera focusses on a series of huge banners, together spelling out “Stop This!”, which protesters have placed in a clearcut. At the bottom of the banners people can be seen holding the letters in place. They are tiny in comparison to the banners. Then the camera pans out. The people become too small to see. By the time the whole clearcut is in view, the banner is too small to read. The scale of the destruction is vast. If Gunns’ pulp mill is built, when it starts up 80 per cent of its raw material will come from Tasmania’s native forests. “Logging to feed a hungry pulp mill would devastate some of Tasmania’s spectacular and diverse forests,” comments the voice-over on the film.
Yet the impact of the proposed pulp mill on Tasmania’s forests and wildlife was ignored in the state and federal assessments. Neither did the assessment look at the impact of increased logging on climate change – “logging to feed Gunns proposed pulp mill would emit 110 million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere” according to the film.
Between 1999 and 2006, a total area of more than 64,000 hectares of Tasmania’s native forests was converted to industrial tree plantations. This has had a devastating impact on wildlife as habitat is destroyed and replaced by monocultures. Plantations require huge amounts of water and threaten water quality. The film shows aerial spraying of plantations with toxic chemicals and points out that there are numerous examples where spraying has contaminated water supplies. Then there’s the impact of millions of litres of toxic effluents from proposed pulp mill on Tasmania’s seas and fisheries. And pulp mills stink. The air in the Tamar Valley is already seriously polluted because of an air inversion which traps pollution.
Despite these problems the government has spent millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money promoting Gunns’ proposed pulp mill. In March 2007, Gunns pulled out of the independent assessment process by withdrawing its application to the Resource Planning and Development Commission. The Tasmanian Government (with the help of Gunns’ lawyers) re-wrote the law to create a fast-track approval process for the proposed pulp mill.
Tasmanians continue to protest in their thousands against Gunns. The Wilderness Society has challenged the project in the federal court, because the impacts of the proposed pulp mill on forests and wildlife have been ignored and because Gunns pulled out of the independent assessment process.
UPDATE (14 August 2007): The Federal Court upheld the fast track approval process on 9 August 2007. The Wilderness Society appealed the decision on 14 August 2007.