LEGISLATION has been introduced into State Parliament today to extend the permit for Gunns Ltd’s proposed $2.2 billion Bell Bay pulp mill until August 30, 2011.

Energy and Resources Minister, David Llewellyn, said the extension would clarify the legal status of the Pulp Mill Approval Permit and allow the company to “substantially commence the project”.

“This amendment in no way alters or weakens the environmental criteria that the mill has to meet.”

Mr Llewellyn said that at the time the Pulp Mill Assessment Act was passed it was not thought necessary for it to contain a date at which the Permit would cease to exist.

“Nor was it considered necessary to specifically address provisions relating to the expiry of permits, licences or other approvals contained in other Acts that may apply to the Pulp Mill.

“Last month the Government received advice from the Solicitor-General that uncertainty had arisen about whether the pulp mill permit had an expiry date, and if so, whether the date had passed.

“There are differing legal views about this issue that, without legislative clarification, could only be resolved by a court.”

Mr Llewellyn said that because of the size and complexity of the project and it not going ahead as fast as envisaged, clarifying legislation was needed to end the legal uncertainties.

“In addition, without legislation to clarify the legal uncertainty regarding the lapse of approvals contained in the Pulp Mill Permit, it would be difficult for statutory regulators to regulate the project.”

Mr Llewellyn said that given the complexity and size of the project, it was reasonable to extend the Pulp Mill Permit until August 30, 2011.

“The legislation will also make it clear that any permits under LUPAA that may be deemed to have lapsed, have not lapsed.

“The Government has shown with its extensive reform agenda that it is prepared to confront issues and deal with them quickly and decisively,” Mr Llewellyn said.

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