Tasmanian Times


We are not passengers

Like many, I wake dreaming of the beleaguered pulp mill.

It’s not a sane thing, but after five years of head banging, it is the only thing to be expected.

It was never going to be a proposal which would satisfy the demands of the environment or NGOs set up with that charter in mind.

From day one it was a matter for changing legislation, heavy propaganda, SLAPP suits and any other malicious mischief to drag a nineteenth century paradigm into the noughties.

The state was a ready bride, but the Feds were a little slower to become mistress, but eventually they succumbed to the force that drives this wretched antique ideal.

There is not enough bandwidth to list this sorry tale, but a few points still remain close.

Firstly, and for me, the most important reason why this proposal remains, comes from the never answered question: how can this concept ever make money?

The proponent happily clearfells and chips, while paying pittance for inputs at the vast expense of taxpayers and contractors, yet make a very slim profit.

As a sideline, they have happily clearfelled 60% of their share price since announcing this proposal, despite several “successful” floats which saw shareholders come off second best…but still they come.

I digress.

If it’s not about the environment, then it’s about money.

Despite a mantra delivered of “deep in negotiations”, “selected venture partners” ad infinitum, they are as far away from getting this dead horse to run the cup, as they ever were.

I will quote approximate figures from the olden days, when I first put this question forward, and I still remain an ignorant layman when it comes to the root of all evil, so an expert may enlighten me.

Suffice to say if no one will lend them the money, then it must be a financial blunder.

Gunns buys our native forest for $15 per tonne and sells it for $150.

Aside from a few minor outputs, when you are talking five million tonnes per annum, then it sounds like a company awash with dinero.

Somehow their share price is a fizzer?

Ok, let’s move to the saviour of Tasmania, the “you know what”.

Four tonnes of our native forest equals one tonne of air dried pulp.

One tonne of air dried pulp equals $600.

So, they double their money.

Hang on a tick, that all sounds too easy.

How do they double their money?

Well, that is my question.

To make that extra $600 per tonne, they need to outlay billions (it’s a flexible figure, but let’s just say it’s a fair wad), so add in a workforce of 292 (that was the first figure), add in chemicals, maintenance and all the other on costs……

Why would you bother?

Now you can build Meander Dam, alter the Air Quality Act 2004, devise the Pulp Mill Assessment Act, and spread evil propaganda about those who defend their planet from destruction, build roads and add infrastructure at the expense of hospitals and education…the list is endless….but still no one on planet earth has jumped up and said, “what a bloody great idea, let’s fund this baby and get on with the greatest infrastructure project in Tasmania’s history”.

So I put it to you, that this always was, always will be, the greatest lemon that Tasmania has ever had to digest.

I put it to you, that despite all tiers of government embracing this concept tighter than their political pensions, that we as a community have flourished without the support of our alleged leaders.

We have grown strong and engaged with each other.

We have, and continue to show, that after five years of toil, of degrading humiliation, of endless stress and torment, that we are community.

We walk tall, with truth beside us, we fight the good fight, and for that, and the lack of their pulp mill we should celebrate this remarkable achievement, against the odds, of corporate and government alliance against community.

We should celebrate that this idea is fatally flawed and despite their vain attempts, and millions of taxpayers dollars used illegitimately to lever its birth, they have failed so very miserably.

They have desperately tried to divide and conquer, but still they fail in their evil quest.

So, despite the ongoing suffering we feel, know that this proposal is a financial disaster, find comfort with the fact that it remains nothing more that a vast area of dirt five years on, and join our brothers and sisters in celebrating this marvellous linking and strengthening of community.

Think of all the animals, we have saved, think of the friendships we have found, the joy in knowing we are participating in creating a better planet for our children and grandchildren.

We are not passengers; we all have our hands on the wheel.

Well done!

Keep at the good fight.


Picture: Wilderness Society

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Dave Groves

    November 23, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Remember the small gathering at Deviot Hall, the place where this now world wide crusade began.

    It has been a catalyst for change in Tasmania and has awakened many from their slumber.

    Many have found courage and inspiration, many are giving like they have never given before and it fills me with joy to witness these amazing people, as they strive to make life better for all.

    When we all win, we cannot fail.

    The equation is that simple.

    So keep up your marvelous passion, your desire for a better Tasmania, Australia and planet.

    All good things,


  2. Bev

    November 23, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Dave, my friend, once again beautifully written. You are one of those fantastic, committed people you write about and our friendship was forged on the pulp mill battleground! I know we have often discussed the positives that have come out of the pulp mill fight, ie the growing sense of community and the new friends we have met along both sides of the river to name just a few. When we have been despondent in the last 5 years, there has always been someone or something that has cheered us on, but especially heartening are the committed, passionate, intelligent and altruistic people that fight this mill anyway they can.

  3. Judith King

    November 23, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Thanks Dave. You have written this beautifully and are spot on that we are not passengers. So many folk are now involved and the numbers are growing by the week.

    More and more the community is realizing it needs to stand up for itself because its elected representatives have let it down. Processes are corrupted at all levels in government and business decision making.

    We love Tasmania and have met the best people since moving here a few years ago. People with intelligence, integrity and the heart to defend what is important for Tasmania, its communities and its lifestyle. In the bigger mainland cities, this energy is not apparent. Perhaps the threats aren’t as great interstate or the large populations are more removed from local issues.

    Whatever the reason, we have found that the Tasmanian community is so alive and united, supporting each other against the Gunns push to decimate this island. Ordinary people willing to do the extraordinary to ensure the right approaches are applied here in Tassie.

    We will win this filthy proposed mill battle and future battles that try to intimidate the community into subservience. Gunns and LibLabs, through their ineptness, have stirred us to a raised state of awareness. We now realize we cannot trust those currently in power and significant change is needed to protect Tasmania’s integrity and to mitigate climate change.

    Yes, we are stronger. We will fight for our rights and democracy in Tasmania. What we are doing now is a far better investment for the future than the polluting projects being proposed for quick profit to satiate short term greed.

    It’s so nice to read some positive perspective about Tasmania and our community. We need to celebrate and continue to build our strengths.

  4. Mike Bolan

    November 23, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Spot on again Dave.

    It’s project which is deliberately crippled, like the child beggars in Mumbai, so as to attract government compensation, subsidies, resources and other support.

    Ooooh, look at the poor pulp mill. Poor thing.

    They are trying so hard to make money to employ all those people. Can’t we just give them a few more hundred million to help them out?

  5. Stephan

    November 22, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    We have yet to discover a peacful and effective way to replace inept, bumbling and indolent political masters with people who actually do the job for the people and not the influence and money.

  6. Marion Nicklason

    November 22, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Inspirational Dave. Thank you for your constructive contribution to the tale of Tasmania.

    Tasmania has a great opportunity to build on the energy and make lasting change to the political culture in Tasmania, from grass roots through to party politics. Tasmania would greatly benefit becoming a healthy, vibrant democracy at every level.

    I invite you and all other interested Tasmanians to attend the Tasmanians for a Healthy Democracy Forum to be held 6.30 – 8.00pm at the Baha’i Centre for Learning, 1 Tasman Highway, Hobart on Tuesday 24th November 2009. See website for details. http://www.tashealthydemocracy.com

  7. Pete Godfrey

    November 22, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Well put Dave, this project has galvanised the community more than anything since the Franklin Dam. Maybe it is the universes way to get community to talk to each other. Can’t see any other reason why these dinosaurs keep throwing up ridiculous ways to destroy the planet.
    The media are not very useful these days with their dumbing down and useless sound bites.
    At least we have a voice albiet small in the Tas Times where we can expand the argument.
    I cheer every morning that the mill has not attracted any one stupid enough to hand over a fist full of dollars. I guess they would have tried the Mafia but they probably arent’ into projects that are dreamed up by total losers either.

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