Tasmanian Times


Mill: The Psychological Impact


Since December 2004, Tasmanians and especially those people living and working in the Tamar Valley have lived with the uncertainty surrounding Gunn’s proposed pulp mill on the banks of the Tamar River in Northern Tasmania.

The area is home to a population of approximately 100,000 taking in Launceston and various towns and communities along both sides of the river. From the initial announcement on, the State Labor Government and Liberal opposition have supported the proposal wholeheartedly, ignoring the growing levels of community concern in the Tamar Valley and across Tasmania. Over the past 5 years the perceptions of collusion and back door deals between the government and Gunns has heightened already serious concerns based on very credible science and natural and human environmental impact assessment projections. Given the way these grave community and professional body (such as the AMA) concerns have been dismissed and marginalized by the local media, State Government and developer a formal survey was designed and initiated in September 2009 to document the nature and level of community and state resident concerns with respect to the proposed pulp mill and with respect to the impact assessment and community consultation processes which have taken place to date. The brief report highlights and discusses a number of key findings from this survey.

A statewide online survey was carried out over a four week period in September 2009. The survey methodology employed a snowball sampling procedure whereby information regarding the survey, including online survey form particulars, was sent out through a variety of sources including individuals and business owners, with recipients asked to forward the survey on to others. This request included a specific statement that the survey should be sent on to other contacts, regardless of their (if known) view of the pulp mill.

Notwithstanding some limitations with respect to this type of survey methodology, this procedure was deemed the most effective way to reach a broad and representative sample of people given the constraints of time and money. As with similar survey types, it is acknowledged that individuals who respond are more likely to be those for whom the issue is salient and important, through the description of the survey, its focus and the dissemination channels used were carefully thought through as to preclude or minimize any perceived bias or agenda.


This section includes only a brief outline of some of the more pertinent incidences that led to the development of the survey. Far more detail could have been included.

At the end of 2004, residents of the Tamar Valley read in the local newspaper that woodchip company, Gunns Ltd had put forward a proposal to the State government to build a pulp mill, the location to be decided between Hampshire on the north-west coast or at Longreach on the Tamar Valley next to the existing woodchip mill. Most residents were not too concerned at the time, believing the logical location for the mill would be at Hampshire in the middle of large plantation areas and the port of Burnie, not in the beautiful Tamar Valley, home to such a large population.

After only a few weeks deliberation, Gunns announced that they had chosen the Longreach site. This announcement occurred in the middle of January school holidays with many residents away on holidays. Gunns stated that the mill would be TCF technology, meaning that it would be totally chlorine free and use plantation timber only. The Federal Government gave them $5m based on this information.

Immediately after this announcement the local newspaper, The Examiner ran a 40 page spread entitled “Pulp Mill the opportunities” full of praise and support for the project but no substantive information regarding pulp mills. Understandably, residents began to express concerns. In addition, the State Government announced the creation of the Pulp Mill Taskforce to “sell” the proposal to the local residents. It was obvious that behind the scenes, this Taskforce had been established at least several months previously as staff had already been appointed and marketing tools such as pamphlets and a bus equipped with more pamphlets, but not more information were already in waiting.

At the end of January 2005, residents of the Tamar Valley received invitations from the Pulp Mill taskforce informing them that the taskforce representatives would be in their area for five days and residents were invited to contact them with questions. Taskforce members said they would be happy to come to homes to tell people all about the proposed mill but no public meeting was being held. By this stage, residents were beginning to feel very uncomfortable with the speed at which this all seemed to be progressing and the unfettered support not only from the State government and Liberal opposition, but also local councils, none of whom had held any meeting to provide information to the public. Residents of the Tamar Valley took matters into their own hands and organized a meeting at the small Deviot Hall at the end of the week during which the Taskforce was in the area. Originally, the taskforce representatives were opposed to attending this meeting repeating that they just wanted to meet individuals or small groups in peoples’ homes. At the last moment, approximately two hours before the meeting was to begin, they agreed to attend.

Residents came armed with intelligent, informed questions – it was not too difficult to google pulp mills and discover all the risks associated with them – none of which were adequately answered by the taskforce, leading to the creation of the first community group.

Over the past five years, not only has it fallen upon the affected community to identify relevant source material and initiate their own research and investigations, but public trust and confidence has been completely eroded by the failed and transparent measures of Gunns and the State government to misinform and manipulate public opinion and support for the mill.

As the project was labeled a Project of State Significance, it was to be assessed by the Resource Planning and Development Commission(RPDC), involving a panel of experts and headed by Judge Julian Green. The process involved Directions Hearings at which various groups could put forward arguments and concerns, with legal representation if they chose. Various groups, both for and against the pulp mill were invited to attend. Hearings began in October 2006, three months after the release of the seven volume, approximately 7000 page, Integrated Impact statement. Given the volume and complexity of this document, individuals and groups were given little time to analyse and respond and despite this, a great deal of time, effort and fiancés were expended due to the serious omissions and flaws found in various components of the document. The community was committed to having their voices heard. The concerns included but were not limited to inadequate assessment of air pollution in the Tamar Valley (already a concern due to the inversion layer, making the valley fog and smog prone in winter); impact on the marine environment, use of and transport of toxic chemicals, the volume of public water and forest resources, impact on biodiversity, social impacts and lack of cost-benefit analysis on local residents and businesses.

By January 2007, it was evident that the RPDC had concerns regarding the location and type of pulp mill proposed and during that month revelations were made in regard to undue pressure being brought to bear by Premier Lennon, causing the resignation of the head of the panel citing undue government interference. Similarly, the replacement, Judge Christopher Wright also resigned within the month, publicly stating that he had been pressured to cease the Directions Hearings and approve the mill. Gunns also made public announcements that “unless the mill was approved within 6 months the project would be axed” (The Mercury, 9 January 2007). Paul Lennon also refused to rule out the possibility of a “new” assessment process and rushed from Hobart to Launceston to meet with John Gay, Managing Director and Chairman of Gunns. Mr. Gay said he was reassured by the Premier’s promise to continue “working on the process to do his best to make sure the pulp mill is built”
In March 2007, Gunns withdrew from the RPDC process and within 24 hours, Premier Lennon recalled parliament to announce that he would be expediting the pulp mill project via a special act of Parliament.

This led to unprecedented outrage by Tasmanians and even those who had supported the mill, could now no longer do so and were appalled at the lack of due process. The entire parliament, except for the Greens, went along with this betrayal. The Pulp Mill Assessment Act (PMAA) 2007 was prepared with the help of Gunns legal team leading the President of the Upper House to call it “Gunns dream bill” and a new term was being used, Tasmanians no longer had a democratically elected government, but a “Gunnerment”.

Throughout all this and the proceeding 2 years, in which both Labor and Liberal forge ahead with their obsessive support of the pulp mill, the lives of the residents and business owners of the Tamar Valley have been turned upside down. They continue to live with ongoing uncertainty, because despite the collusion and the large amount of taxpayer money, Gunns have not yet built their mill. Finance has been hard to get ($2billion is required), due to the global financial crisis and they are seeking a joint venture partner. However with a well organized local and international campaign against the company and the pulp mill proposal, none have yet signed up.

In a further display of unfettered support, the State government extended the State operating permits for the mill. Originally granted in August 2007 for a period of two years, the permits expired on 31 August 2009. Once again the State Labor Government and Liberal opposition, joined forces to grant a 22 month extension. This despite Premier Bartlett, last year saying that he was “drawing a line in the sand’ with respect to continual assistance to Gunns and that Tasmanians have a right to say “enough is enough” and should have answers by Christmas (2008).

This is the situation that residents have found themselves in – one where the goal posts change continually, always in favour of Gunns, the when an end has been in sight, the project is kept on life support by an acquiescing Labor government and colluding Liberal opposition, neither giving any thought to the effect this has on normal people just trying to get on with their lives. There is now profound distrust of government, environmental protection institutions (including Federal) and processes, resulting in reports of increased psychological effects such as anxiety, depression, relationship and financial difficulties and increasing levels of frustration with both State and Federal government’s complete and overriding support of the project despite continuous polls, letters radiotalkback and other feedback, reflecting that the majority of Tasmanians do not support the current proposal by Gunns to build an ECF technology mill in the Tamar Valley.

From the first round of written submission to the RPDC in May 2005, when over 200 submissions were received (a record for Tasmania) it is the community who have read, written and learnt about pulp mills, cutting through the blatant misinformation and misrepresention of both Gunns and the government.

The current survey was conducted in an attempt to expose the effects that the ongoing uncertainty has on individuals and to give voice to the community whose concerns continue to remain unheard and to expose the contempt with which the community is held by so many of our politicians.


The online survey was live over a four week period, during which time anyone could complete the survey. The survey link was distributed to a wide variety of individuals and businesses with a request to forward it on.

In total there were 537 respondents, 56.9% living in the Tamar Valley with the remaining 43.1% being Tasmanian residents. Ages ranged from less than 20 (1.4%) to over 71 (5.7%), with the majority being between 41 to 60 years (55.8%). 52.8% were male, 47.9% female.

Of the total respondents, 81.8% were residents of the Tamar Valley and 18.6% owned businesses. These business include, but are not limited to, bed and breakfast accommodation, farms, vineyards, organic produce,and restaurants/cafes.

Respondents were asked if they had delayed making business decisions as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the pulp mill, 25.5% answered yes and of those 70.8% were due to concerns that the mill would be built.

Similarly, residents were asked if they had delayed renovating or making changes to their homes. 34.2% responded that they had. In the past five years 16.9% thought about trying to sell their home and move; 5.6% did sell for a much lower price (before the GFC) and 7.8% have tried but have been unsuccessful. 53.9% answered that if the mill were to be build they would try and sell and move away, 27.7% said they would move to another part of Tasmania with 26.2% stating they would move interstate.

Psychological Effects

Respondents were asked if they had been or currently are, experiencing various psychological effects. 66.1% reported feeling frustrated, 56.3% anger; 49.8% anxiety/stress; 27.5% depressed;18.3% reported a deterioration in physical health. In total 72.4% of people who answered yes, believed that it was due to concerns about their future if the mill was to be built.

78.8% of people answered that they believed that their overall quality of life would get worse if the pulp mill goes ahead with only 21.2% believing that it will get better.

Of those who believed that their quality of life would improve the main reasons given were that ‘the pulp mill will increase the chance of employment for family members’ (73.4%); ‘the pulp mill will increase job opportunities for me (60.6%).

Of the 78.8% who believed that their overall quality of life would deteriorate, the main reasons given were: ‘the pulp mill will lead to a rise in health problems due to odour and air pollution (89.6%); lead to more accidents on the road (84.8%), that the pulp mill will lead to unemployment in existing clean/green employment sectors (80.1%); and lead to increased deaths due to air pollution (76.4%).

Community Mistrust

Respondents were asked whether they believed that the best interests of the community had been taken into consideration by Gunns: 55.3% did not believe they had consulted at all; 80% do not believe that Gunns is concerned about the community at all, while 81.5% don’t trust any statements or information released by Gunns in relation to the pulp mill.

The same question was asked with regard to the State government: 52.2% do not believe that the government consulted with the community and 87% do not trust the the government. Only 7.8% agreed with the approvals process undertaken by the government and only 1.98% believed that the government were concerned for residents of the Tamar Valley.

68.1% of respondents reported that they had undertaken their own research to find information relating to pulp mills. Other sources of information included media, attending community organized information sessions and meetings.

As emotions in the community are high people were asked to indicate what level of action they might take, if necessary to stop this mill. 77.4% responded that they would participate in protest action, 60.1% would provide financial support to groups opposed to the mill, while others would continue to agitate politicians, contact the media etc. 16.1% said they would actively support the building process.

The final question reflects the deep division within Tasmania over the pulp mill. Respondents were asked to indicate their level of support: 76.2% strongly opposed, 4.0% moderately oppose, 1.0% slightly oppose, 1.2% slightly support, 2.4% moderately support and 16.4% strongly support the pulp mill in the Tamar Valley.


The current survey was conducted to determine the psychological and social effects that prolonged exposure to uncertainty surrounding Gunns pulp mill is having on Tasmanian residents, especially those living and working in the Tamar Valley.

The results show a community that has been through an extraordinary time, and many feel that they are literally fighting for their livelihoods, if not lives. Many of the comments made as part of the survey responses show a community, that is deeply mistrusting of the State government and Gunns. Despite a barrage of pro-mill propanganda, despite the local media generally siding with Gunns, despite running on donated funds and pro bono or in kind generosity, the community has, against all odds fought this pulp mill proposal and has, so far, prevented it being built. As John Gay was overheard saying at a gathering in July 2005 – ‘they promised there would be no opposition”, or Paul Lennon telling a business community forum in November 2004 when announcing that a pulp mill would be built that if he had to stand in front of the bull dozers and shoot the greenies then he would!” This from the Premier of a State, that, as the community has found, had an obsessive desire to get it built at all cost.

However, all this comes at a cost, be it emotional, physical or financial and although the community is determined, perhaps more so than ever, the effects that such a prolonged exposure to uncertainty is having, is pronounced.

The Battle for the Tamar Valley has also had positive effects as some residents will say. It has forged a stronger community along both sides of the bank of the river, individuals have been empowered to stand up for what they believe in, there is a growing awareness of the destruction of Tasmania’s old growth forests and the effects of aerial and other chemical spraying used in the forestry industry.
Some of the comments from the survey sum up the general feeling within the community:

“I feel sicked by the proposed pulp mill. I have always been an easygoing person but am finding myself filled with hate and anger. I love Tasmania but feel I have lost my home….”
“Our plans to build holiday cabins in Beauty Point …has been put off”

“I am usually a really positive person, but the threat of this project hangs in the air like a perpetual cloud. It has been the wrong project from the start, both socially and environmentally and is destroying this beautiful island.”

Many respondents expressed thanks for having been given the opportunity to have their say, something that has been missing from this entire process. *

“So whatever the guidelines are, what will happen at the end of the day is that John Gay will say “jump” and Paul Lennon will say “how high”. (Senator Christine Milne)

This has been exactly what has occurred and despite Paul Lennon’s resignation due to an approval rating of only 17%, the current Premier, David Bartlett and is Labor team, as well as the Liberal opposition, continue to conduct business the same way. Ordinary Tasmanians are disgusted and appalled by the demolition of democracy and the way their right to question has been treated with contempt by politicians telling them to “go and have a cold shower and get over it”, that they have the right to expect representation as a community by their elected representatives, to have their concerns listened to and treated with respect.

One of the biggest cause for concern has been the PMAA 2007, and especially Section 11 which prevents people being able to receive compensation for loss or damage either during construction or operation of the pulp mill. So, if, for example an organic farm loses its organic status, or the quality of wine is effected, or you simply can’t enjoy a beautiful day because today is the day the pulp mill is having an “odour event”, and you are stuck because you can’t even sell your home and move then that is just too bad. This is just one of the reasons that residents are stressed and anxious because the question that everyone wants answered is if this pulp mill is as good and problem free as Tasmanians have been told, why is this Section even nececessary? Politicians continue to argue this is not the case, but a recent legal action by a group of residents to have the government provide information could not go ahead because, as the Judge stated, Section 11 precluded him from doing so.

Tasmanians and in particular those who live in what they term to be “the sacrifice zone” are living daily with the uncertainty of what their future holds. They have suffered losses already, the loss of relative certainty for the future, plans they have made for retirement, decisions put off, and as a result, higher levels of frustration, anger, anxiety and stress impacting on relationships and finances in some circumstances.

However, on 3 November, the State government with the Liberal opposition once again, joined forces and voted to grant Gunns a 22 month extension to their construction permits. Another example of Gunns being given special treatment at the expense of ordinary Tasmanians and a reinforcement of the belief that the people of the Tamar Valley are expendable.

This brief paper attempts to highlight just some of the social and emotional impacts that the pulp mill process has had on Tasmanians experiencing this process on a daily basis for almost 6 years. Whilst there is a weariness there is also a commitment to ensure that the pulp mill never gets built. There are people being trained in peaceful community protest and more and more willing to be arrested.

In the words of one of the ‘spiritual” leaders of the community movement:

“We will never, ever, ever give up!”

Download the full report:

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


  1. hugoagogo

    April 22, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    #21 Jon Sumby,

    Thanks for your extended response to my glib comment about what proved to be a snowball survey.

    This method was not expounded in the author’s method, knowingly or otherwise, but the result really should be spelled out as an indication of the unhappiness of the community in the immediate locality of the proposed kraft biorefinery.

    I gained the definite impression that the authors implied the unhappiness was more broadly based…for some reason.

  2. joey

    April 12, 2010 at 1:42 am

    “However, outside the converted, I doubt that they will. “, i agree with that…

  3. Dr Kevin Bonham

    April 9, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    OK, fair enough joey (#45), it did occur to me at the time that might be what you were saying and I should have indicated this. If just filling out a methodically flawed survey has a therapeutic value then that’s fine. Maybe when the survey is done the “results” could be buried under peatmoss or something. 😉

    I suppose part of the therapeutic value might lie in seeing the results published and hoping they’ll be taken seriously. However, outside the converted, I doubt that they will.

  4. joey

    April 9, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Kevin states,
    “I’m not arguing with that but all manner of delusions have therapeutic value for some people.”

    you may have misunderstood my comment. the therapeutic value lies in people being able to express something when they may feel that they are not being listened to by relevant authorities.

  5. Dr Kevin Bonham

    April 9, 2010 at 2:52 am

    Thought I’d sent a reply to #38 but apparently not. All I was going to point out there is that the 20 polls listed on the TAP site do not all demonstrate majority opposition to the mill, not even if you assume all were validly conducted (which most were not anyway).

    Even ignoring the method defects (biased preambles etc) with the various polls:

    * Four of the opinion polls have “against” rates lower than 50%, even though the “against” rate is higher than the “for” rate in each of those cases. Just having more against than for does not prove majority opposition when a significant proportion are undecided. Indeed in cases like that, they call it into question if not disprove it.

    * Three are elector polls, for which TAP incorrectly assigns a blank for “Not sure or did not answer”. In fact every elector who failed to return their ballot on these questions should be counted as “did not answer”, as should every elector who voted informally. Once this is taken into account there is not a majority on any of these polls (and even ignoring that, Emily is still wrong because the George Town residents poll got a 52/48 result – a majority [i]in favour[/i] out of those who bothered voting).

    * Four are phone-in or online polls. Quite aside from these being so prone to biased response that any source that cites them as evidence harms its own credibility, we have no idea how many potential respondents did not know or did not answer – it can’t be measured, it could well be that the majority of people seeing the poll didn’t respond at all to it.

    So far from 20/20 “finding” the majority against the poll as Emily claims, at most 9/20 support that finding. Then of course there are the issues of method defects with many of those polls, which I have often covered elsewhere.

    Joey in #39 refers to therapeutic value. I’m not arguing with that but all manner of delusions have therapeutic value for some people.

    As for the question of intensity of opposition/support, the Marketmetrics/Essential Research poll of 3 Oct 07 showed views that were “strongly in favour” running in rough parity with “somewhat in favour” while “strongly against” was over three times “somewhat against”. This is for the electorates of Bass and Braddon. I treat this poll with some caution because of its small sample size and the leanings of the ER sample base that are apparent in other polling (eg its ALP figure, like that of Morgan face-to-face polling, always seems to be a few points high) but the poll did not employ a flawed preamble and the differences in intensity of support are stark enough that I am sure valid conclusions can be drawn there. Newspoll for Bass only August 2007 showed similar proportional results.

    I strongly suspect there is more opposition than support for the mill proposal across the state as a whole at present and that this has been the case for some time – I just suspect that some of the polls are overstating levels of opposition. Industry groups could commission shonky polls to make it look more like a 50-50 thing but they probably don’t see any point in doing so given the bipartisan consensus for the mill thus far.

    By the way TAP’s reporting of the results of the Hobart elector polls (23/77) is incorrect. There were three different polls on the mill for Hobart at that election – concerning process, type of pulp manufacture and location, and the no votes (out of those votes that were returned and formal) were 75.89%, 66.77% and 75.95%. Considering the “no” vote as a proportion of those enrolled to vote, none of the questions received a “no” vote above 40%.

  6. Greg Standish

    April 8, 2010 at 4:52 am

    Following on from #31, if you don’t get around to going on Frank Strie’s upcoming forest tour, just watch video clips online of the trip as run in Oct 2007:

  7. Steve

    April 7, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    31; Don’t be dull Frank. I think the expenditure of fiancés is likely to help recruitment better than a factual description of meetings.
    I’m not sure what’s happened to the more traditional expenditure of virgins but perhaps they’re just too hard to find these days?

  8. William Boeder

    April 7, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I can only wonder at those persons that would support this gimcrack scheme Pulp-Mill of Gunns Ltd?
    Wouldn’t John Gay have turned this Pulp-Mill into a shining beacon of world-wide management excellence?
    Have a look around Tasmania to see how the entire State has benefited from having Gunns Ltd forestry operations here, also in the manner that the ‘taxpayer’ has to fund the chief supply entity of Forestry Tasmania to help Gunns Ltd achieve any sort of acceptable bottom line?

    Of all the income received by Gunns Ltd, via the MIS wobbly dodgy brothers method of extracting so much to return so little, other than huge tax concessions to the clever dicks that seek to profit at the taxpayers expense, the entire MIS package was little short of ‘a rivers of money plot,’ to create huge profits for only a very limited few.
    Ever the promise of this rags to riches wealth in the plantation-tree ‘free for all’ has fallen over.
    Now tell me of the benefits to Tasmania of Gunns Ltd running a noxious, smoking, belching, poorly regulated polluting pulp-Mill in Tasmania?

    If you have answered truthfully to my contentions as presented here, you will understand the how and why of the poll results of Bev Ernst.

  9. Dr Kevin Bonham

    April 7, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    pilko (#29), your post is just a nasty bit of vacuous strawmanning since at no point have I denied that there are real concerns about the mill or that some people may be psychologically affected by their perception of the prospect of it. All I have said is that a survey of this kind is bound to attract a degree of exaggeration.

    The primary points made by Shane and Mike (that psychological impacts of perceptions of the mill may be caused by activist exaggerations about it rather than the facts about the mill itself) are not an area I have got into in my comments thus far. But they are a plausible dimension of the issue that is well worth exploring and that deserves a less melodramatic response than yours.

    There is now another apparent contradiction in Bev Ernst’s presentation of information (the first, concerning what proportion of respondents were really from the Tamar Valley, has still not been addressed on this thread).

    The apparent contradiction is this: According to appendix A: “This is a representative sample of some of the many comments made by respondents to the survey and is reflective of the number and type of comments received.”

    But now according to Ernst (#30): “Unfortunately, many of the pro-mill comments received could not be included as they would have been, for the most part, a series of ****** due to bad language – very reflective of the arguments from the pro-mill side.”

    Quite aside from the sledging at the end there, and the exceedingly odd construction “a representative sample of some of the many” (huh?) how can the comments be representative of number and type if a certain type of comment (ie that laden with swearing) has been deleted resulting in the loss of “many” of the pro-mill comments?

    And furthermore, is the idea of starring out the rude words and presenting the comments in that form with the starring out noted (a few simple search and replaces would take care of many of them) really so unreasonable? It would be better than using swearing as a pretext for excluding pro-mill sentiments. Indeed, censoring many respondents from one side of the argument from the appendix just because they swore is verging on classism – and might even hinder recognition of the psychological impact of activist hype on the less stable supporters of development. Surely as a psychologist Ernst should be interested in why some supposedly pro-mill people might swear on her survey about the mill?

    If many comments from one side were cut for swearing this surely should have been indicated explicitly at the head of the appendix. Yet it wasn’t even mentioned.

    Bev Ernst claims that this study reflects training in conducting a research project. I have no doubt she has received that training but that does not change the fact that this is a grossly inappropriate survey method for the types of questions canvassed, the stated sample area and the form in which the data are presented, and that it attempts to validate its results by reference to a field in which the author makes elementary errors. Just learning how to conduct a kind of study is not enough; you need to know when a particular study design is appropriate for the question that you are claiming to ask.

  10. joey

    April 7, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Kevin stated, “motivated response is often stronger when people are opposed to something and afraid of it than supportive of it but without great emotional investment”, i can understand your thinking (hence the statement i made in #14 “are we seeing data suggesting higher proportions of strongly anti-mill in comparison to strongly pro-mill people in the tamar? “) and don’t think there exists great difference between your quote above and mine. when industry talks about support for the mill, is it a case of there being less people stongly supportive of it in comparison to those strongly against it.

    the rest of the paragraph is possible but to argue for it to be probable some evidence would be needed (not that you stated that it would be probable).

    as for the report i agree that in its current form it would not be published in a peer-reviewed journal. however i am sure it does have therapeutic value for those involved.

    finally, in regards to support for the mill, i think the most damning thing for the industry is that there is great lacking of indicators that tasmanians support it. with all the resources at their disposal (government funding included) you would think they would be able to do what groups against it have done.

  11. Gerry Mander

    April 7, 2010 at 3:26 am

    28.I liked “a great deal of time, effort and fiancés were expended”

    There you have it! Due to the psychological stress of the mill, 87.2% of all marriages were called off and Tasmania will now be dependent on immigrant labour in the future.

  12. joey

    April 7, 2010 at 2:22 am

    Col on 07/04/10 at 04:59 PM, you imply that the researchers sent the survey only or mostly to their friends, can you substantiate or do you think we should request the informaion from Bev? which incidently should be present in the report. Can you provide more information on the distribution of the survey please, Bev

  13. Russell

    April 7, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Re #4
    Mary, 537 respondents is only 44.75 times the number of the 12 people the Labor Party polled in their survey just prior to the election, which you were quite happy to accept.

  14. Dr Kevin Bonham

    April 7, 2010 at 2:12 am

    bev’s #22 shows how much at sea she is on this, because she claims her study is justified because its sample reflects polling. But she is so unaware of the facts concerning opinion polls in Tasmania that she echoed the fallacy concerning Paul Lennon’s so-called “approval rating” without checking, and seems oblivious to past discussions that have established that many of the polls that constitute her implied baseline are fatally flawed. So she’s relying on a field of endeavour (poll analysis) which she really hasn’t scratched the surface of, for validation of her contention that her own sample is unweighted. Indeed, given the defects of almost every published poll on this issue, if her sample reflects the results of the polls, then that is in itself a likely point against it.

    Mark (#27), my point is in fact that the author of this study should stick to things she [i]can[/i] quantify (or else not pretend to be quantifying at all) and that the survey method she promotes is completely unsuitable for doing so. The survey method would have been fine for gathering qualitative data of the form “several respondents reported emotion X and some ways in which they outlined their perceptions were …” But to quantify percentages of the sample as a whole (even to three significant figures, the gods would weep if there were any) is completely pointless, because all you are finding out about is percentages of the sample. The sample is not a representative one of the claimed target group (“statewide”, “community and state residents”) and to pass it off as anything resembling such is out and out pseudoscience. Want to use this method for a specifically qualitative study of the reported feelings of primarily mill opponents in the region? Sure, go right ahead and I’d be interested to read it – just don’t pretend statistical extrapolation from it is anything other than garbage in, garbage out.

    Thanks autofear (#19) – I’ve seen that page before (many times), looked at most if not all of those polls and very many of them are flawed by the use of biasing preambles or unsatisfactory wordings or methods, which is scarcely surprising given that so many were commissioned by biased sources. We have even had an explicit admission from Bob McMahon on this site (see #6 of http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/weblog/comments/poll-rejects-pulp-mill/) that the purpose of at least one poll was to whip up a pretext for an anti-mill view covered in the poll’s dubious push-preamble pretext to be discussed in the mainstream meeja. I have discussed all this on this site many times before, and I have actually called for the state to fund independent and reliable polling on this matter so that we know what the community really thinks about this major issue. Ideally this should have been started years ago.

    joey (#14), motivated response is often stronger when people are opposed to something and afraid of it than supportive of it but without great emotional investment. So with the exception of those with a direct or strong indirect vested interest in the construction of the mill, I am not convinced that supporters of the mill would have been just as likely to forward it as opponents. Furthermore they may well have been more cynical about the survey, seeing it as another activist stunt that would produce misleading results, and hence reluctant to contribute.

    Chris (#15) I really think you should give me more credit than that. I have been following this site and reading the outpourings from those who are opposed to this mill for several years. Furthermore I have been observing and interpreting voting behaviour in the area from election to election, to say nothing of time spent in it through personal connections to “the northern Tas community” (well, parts of some of the greener suburbs of Launceston anyway). To say I know nothing of the way many people in the area feel about the mill is just not remotely credible and is setting yourself up to be refuted.

    My issue is not with the existence of the reported feelings (though a degree of exaggeration by some respondents is inevitable) but with the pretence that the percentage figures mean anything that can be extrapolated beyond the sample. Now I suggest you stop attempting to straw man and dismiss my position with non-credible rubbish and focus on that issue. Have a look at the points made in Jon Sumby’s excellent post #21 and check out Jon’s background on this site. What he is saying and what I am saying here are very similar but I’m sure you will not try to write him off as dismissively and ignorantly as you did for me.

    Maddie (#17), your actions in forwarding the survey to all your acquaintances, even those pro the mill, are highly commendable but your one example does not prove everyone behaved like that. It only takes a small proportion of people to select who they forward it to in a biased fashion before the sample skews very significantly.

  15. John McDonald

    April 7, 2010 at 1:59 am

    Hang on a minute – wasn’t Bev a Greens candidate at the recent election? Where is the disclaimer??

  16. Mark Hanna

    April 7, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Well of course the survey has some bias, but maybe it’s actually difficult to find people without some reservations about the pulp mill project.

    Jeez folks, the flaming thing’s a joke. Yes we need to better process our exported natural resources. No, we don’t need to trash our forests and countryside to do so. Especially our Tamar Valley. Wrong mill, wrong technology, wrong place, wrong transport, wrong size, wrong resource, wrong proponent with wrong directors, wrong political allies (yes, him!), who have f#$@ed up our economic future as a result. This state has the best timber in the world, bar none, and yet we seem to want to make most ofmour money from selling our best timber as woodchips so someone else can turn them into pulp and then toilet paper for people elsewhere in the world, or even to sell back to us later. We could have had one or more world’s best technology pulpmills, or even paper-mills, in the right place, with the right process, at the right scale and using the right resource, or even several other plants using the same timber for even more useful and lucrative purposes. We could even have had some of the best timber (yes, shock horror) remain standing producing oxygen and just being impressive and beautiful if we had used some of the other resource more effectively. What proper assessment have we made of the best economic use of our timber?

    What do we have now? More and more timber workers out of work. Scott McLean supported John Howard as PM, and looks unlikely to live it down. (Onya Scott! BIG chortle. Had a glass of red on the strength of that failure.) No pulp mill, no other replacement industries, Gunns going down the gurgler, John Gay and Robin Gray probably being hounded out by their institutional investors. You’ll remember Robin as the Premier who basically bankrupted us, until we removed him and installed a Labor-Green government which sorted out our finances.

    No wonder people have been a bit depressed! I once asked a supposedly knowledgeable friend what would happen if the pulp mill went ahead. This was in the context of benefits to Tasmania compared to benefits to Gunns shareholders. He told me it would bankrupt Gunns. I didn’t believe him. It does now look plausible, and I for one am not very sad.

  17. Frank

    April 7, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Re: #28 Steve- Just what happens at TAP meetings?!

    If you like to share your thoughts and concerns, come along to the next TAP meeting and your question will be answered Steve.
    Yes, we meet every secon Thursday in Riverside and I do not regret to get together with the other Tamar Valley people and beyond ,…
    We will organise a fact finding tour into the catchments soon, a bus trip that will allow everyone to see what we are talking about above and beyond the actual pulpmill site.
    The TAP meetings will end as soonas the Mill project is canned and the time changes.
    For more info:
    Tapvision.info Into A Better Tasmania expressed outrage today that community concerns have again been disregarded by Tasmania’s State Government. …
    Who is TAP
    Media reports
    Fish Job
    Tamar valley
    Fact sheets and analysis
    Contact your politician

  18. Bev

    April 7, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Col, you are absolutely correct – anyone can go into Survey Monkey and create a survey. The differnce is though, that not all people have been trained to conduct research projects – this is a significant part of a psychological post-grad degree and means that one can not only design research but understand the crap that Gunns IIS was made of!

    This research should be seen only for what it is -a preliminary study that provides some data and reinforces that the concerns people have are very real – you don’t have to agree with them at all!

    If any of the detractors out there have the time, skills and finances to conduct a complete community survey GO FOR IT! In the meantime accept this for what it is – a reflection of significant concerns that have impacted on Tasmanians, and especially those immediately effected, living in the Tamar Valley.

    In my opinion, the most important part of the study are the comments made by real people and deeply reflects the psychosocial impact that this project continues to make.(appendix). Unfortunately, many of the pro-mill comments received could not be included as they would have been, for the most part, a series of ****** due to bad language – very reflective of the arguments from the pro-mill side.

  19. pilko

    April 7, 2010 at 12:07 am

    I hope they propose a similar pulp mill for Bonham, Duffett and Weatheralls backyards.
    I hope the process is corrupt to the eyeballs and I hope it hangs over their lives like a black cloud for five years.
    I hope they shriek and squeal and nobody listens.
    Then we will see who is scared and who is genuinely concerned.

  20. Steve

    April 6, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    I liked “a great deal of time, effort and fiancés were expended”
    Just what happens at TAP meetings?!

  21. mark

    April 6, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    I know many people who have and continue to suffer emotional & pyschological distress because of the uncertainty visited on them by the pulp mill proposal.
    Bev Ernst is not only more qualified than Kevin Bonham to comment but has talked to and lived alongside the people with the lived experience.

    Stick to things you can quantify Doctor.

    The lived experience of human beings is an area that also requires a qualitative approach …

  22. kerri

    April 6, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    I believe that there are definitely a lot of apathetic people in the north who have no idea of what this project even means.

    It’s interesting that #10 suggests that our fears are unfounded, that there has only been pollution and negative impact from pulp mills in corrupt nations. Interesting in the fact that I found the opposite. I was a fence dweller until I started to read about pulp mills overseas and pretty quickly came to the conclusion that the Tamar was an unsuitable site. Sickness, nausea, headaches, unbearable odor, burnt leaves on fruit crops, downturn in local small business are part of all of these projects where the country is stupid enough to build a pulp mill in a populated area.

    Then add these so called “corrupt” countries and add illegal emmissions into Ramsar protected wetlands destroying the food source of local wildlife and killing protected species. On that note, I wonder if the Chilean government would have been able to pass the Gunns Pulp Swill Assessment Section 11. “Corrupt” countries might even baulk at that one.

    It is apathy, misinformation and the blatant dismissal of concerns about this project that are the dangers in reaching a realistic public concensus of what this project means.

  23. Col

    April 6, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    I can’t anything more to what Kevin has said, the nature of the research method used here explicitly invites respondent bias,

    In this day and age, anyone could set up free surveymonkey account, design a survey, forward it too their friends and ask them to forward it too their friends.

    the results would be sent back to your surveymonkey account … this does not qualify as sound or well constructed research!!

  24. Lilly White

    April 6, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    #8 Kester, the support for the mill = Scott McLean’s primary vote, and opposition to the mill = the greens vote. Who won that?

  25. bev

    April 6, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Dear Mark, Mary,

    For research purposes, 537 respondents is actually very good and significantly more than many other polls. It shows a lack of understanding of scientific research on your part and comments that are not unexpected, given that the results don’t support your own views. As I stated, this is a preliminary study and the only feasible way of getting some figures that support what people have been expressing for years. This study would not be necessary if proper, democratic procedures had been followed in the first place and people felt their concerns had been listened to.

    The questions are not biased – as you can see, people who support the mill were also given the opportunity to respond. I was satisfied with the results as their validity was reflected in the fact that results were similar to all the other phone polls that have been conducted. Bias would have been shown in results were 99% for and 1% against, for example and then the results would not have been published. Similarly, if results were 80% for the mill and 20% against, I would have also published the results because, as a professional that is what I have been trained to do. Research is conducted, based on a hypothesis that will either be proved or disproved by your research. I know this is very difficult for pro mill people to understand as Mary and Mark’s comments indicate.

    The psychosocial impact of this project is another area in which there has been gross neglect. Accepted standards of Environmental Impact assessments, carried out professionally always include this parameter as a matter or course. I would welcome more extensive research in this area – it would be a great Psychology Masters thesis!

  26. Jon Sumby

    April 6, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Hugoagogo, (No. 5): The survey technique you question, as referred to in the article, is known as a ‘snowball survey’; wherein respondents are encouraged to pass the survey onwards into their community. As you point out, this technique can have serious flaws if it is not deployed properly.

    As the term ‘snowball’ implies, the pool of respondents mainly derives from within one particular demographic. For example, a snowball survey can pass from like-minded individual to like-minded individual, without penetrating outside of that demographic. That is, like a snowball, this survey methodology gathers information from within its constituent parts.

    Snowball surveys can be valuable. If one wants to derive information from within a community, it is an excellent technique.

    For example: A snowball survey put into the refugee community about racism will travel within that community and give a perspective on racism and refugees. Or, a snowball survey traveling within the homosexual (gay and lesbian) community about domestic violence would give insight into that issue within that community.

    This is the strength of a snowball survey; the within-demographic assessment, in-group versus out-group. So a snowball survey of Tamar residents that surveys members of that community who feel affected by the protracted pulp mill controversy is entirely valid.

    However, the quote you give,“…with recipients asked to forward the survey on to others. This request included a specific statement that the survey should be sent on to other contacts, regardless of their (if known) view of the pulp mill…”, does raise serious doubts about the methodological validity of the survey that was done.

    Doing social science surveys is almost a ‘black art’. There are many subtle effects to take into account to reach a position where one can assert that the results of the survey accurately measure the group surveyed.

    On first pass, without more detailed survey methodological design beyond the quote you give, asking for the snowball survey participants that, ‘the survey should be sent on to other contacts, regardless of their (if known) view of the pulp mill‘, is very flawed.

    It is axiomatic that snowball surveys travel in-group and not out-group. Asking for the survey to be passed on to others outside the group is a recipe for survey failure, unless very technical measures are designed into the survey to measure out-group participation and weight that response.

    Notwithstanding this criticism, the Tamar resident snowball survey would have great merit as a measure of the community negatively affected by the pulp mill issue. As a general rule, snowball surveys cannot be extended beyond the community being surveyed, which is the mistake made in this survey. But as a survey of affected Tamar residents this survey is very valuable.

  27. Baby Finster

    April 6, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    re#11. Yeah I agree with Dr. Kevim. So ner ner ner ner ner anyway all yooz greenies. Take that!

  28. David Mohr

    April 6, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    It would be over now if it wasn’t for Gunns Ltd’s reticence to take it off their books and further add to their precarious situation.

  29. Russell

    April 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Re #10
    “As far as I can tell, the fears are unfounded. I have looked at several new similar constructions around the world, and while there are a couple of exceptions (in corrupt countries)the benfits have been enormous in terms of local trade, employment and so forth.”

    And currently one is proposed in a corrupt State.

    No wonder people express negative fears when they have had their rights taken away by the blatantly corrupt process of this mill and those who support it.

  30. Chris

    April 6, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Good work Beverly Ernst.

    We know what is happening on the ground.

    Bonham knows nothing of the northern tas community and the feelings of the community on the pulp mill.

    Shane still believes that all people who oppose (the) pulp mill are brainwashed and those who support it are independent thinking Tasmanians.

    How long has this primary school politic been peddled by the intellectual giants of the tree slaughtering industry?

    If being in the caucus conformed lab/libs and one of the vested interests of the woodchip industry is conducive to independent thinking then …..?

  31. joey

    April 6, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    while not having the time at present to review the study (and having a damn good reason), i, like other here, have reservations over the sampling method. however, while Kevin rightly highlights the scenerio where anti-mill (label for ease of discussion) reciepients of the survey would be more likely to forward it to likeminded people, so too this scenerio is applicable to pro-mill people. i have no problem with accepting evidence to the contrary as i have not examined the survey. are we seeing data suggesting higher proportions of strongly anti-mill in comparison to strongly pro-mill people in the tamar?

  32. Mandy Thompson

    April 6, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Well, is this a biased article or what!!

  33. Dr Kevin Bonham

    April 6, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Re #7 virtually none of those polls have been reliably conducted anyway so you’re not missing anything there.

  34. Shane Weatherall

    April 6, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    The survey is interesting from the point of view that people appear to be expressing the negative fears portrayed by the media and other electronic means. I guess that it (the survey) is a litmus test of the how successful the campaign of fear and mistrust has been.

    As far as I can tell, the fears are unfounded. I have looked at several new similar constructions around the world, and while there are a couple of exceptions (in corrupt countries)the benfits have been enormous in terms of local trade, employment and so forth.

    I must also disagree with the last comments of the article that states that the community has become stronger. It has not.

  35. Dr Kevin Bonham

    April 6, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    To argue that this survey method (not “methodology”!) would capture a “broad and representative sample” is simply ludicrous. Even if there are instructions that a survey should be sent to others regardless of their views, a person who is strongly against the mill is more motivated to do so, and is likely to have a higher proportion of acquaintances who are opposed to the mill. They may also be more likely, if time is limited, to forward it primarily to those they know will not mind because those people are already interested in the issue, ie actively against the mill.

    Indeed, the study is claimed to be “statewide” but over half of those actually responding resided in the Tamar Valley! This proves that either the survey suffers from motivated-response bias or else that its distribution has been affected by the same bias.

    The fourth paragraph does acknowledge some of the problems with the survey design but simply doesn’t take seriously the extent to which they could distort percentage findings over an issue as divisive and political as the pulp mill.

    The percentages simply can’t be considered representative given the study design defects. I wonder if this has been submitted to any refereed journal, and if any refereed journals in the field are in the habit of publishing pieces that employ such methods (again, not “methodology”!) to analyse the prevalance of specific psychological attitudes to divisive political questions. Hope not. The findings of such studies are of qualitative value only, and even that qualitative value must be taken with a pinch of salt because of the likely biases of the recipients.

    The study also shows a poor degree of care in fact-checking in other fields of study, for instance regurgitating the urban myth that Paul Lennon’s approval rating was at one stage 17% (it was in fact his preferred premier score according to the demonstratedly unreliable pollster EMRS).

    Finally, I was very confused by this bit in one of the downloads:

    “In total there were 537 respondents, 56.9% living in the Tamar Valley with the remaining 43.1% being Tasmanian residents.”

    and slightly further on we read:

    “Of the total respondents, 81.8% were residents of the Tamar Valley and 18.6% owned businesses.”

    It intrigues me that despite claiming to be opposed to a sham assessment process for the pulp mill, various active opponents of the pulp mill continue to provide sham assessments of public opinion on the issue. I realise that they lack the resources of government but some leadership by example in the provision of robust and unbiased studies and polls would make their cause far more credible.

  36. Kester

    April 6, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    So roughly the same number of people support the pulp mill as voted Green at the recent election.

    It would be nice to see the will of the people respected on both counts.

  37. Frederick Barnes

    April 6, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Sadly I think this article exaggerates how small support around Launceston/Tamar Valley is for the project. We haven’t had any recent EMRS polls regarding the pulp mill to cross check against. The survey was probably not seeded throughout the population in a random way and furthermore, the against-mill lobby are far more likely to forward on such a survey to their friends/family as it seems the pro-mill lobby aren’t quite so inclined to do that sort of thing. I’m inclined to be wary of Bev and her husband’s intellectual honesty. That’s not to say they are unintelligent or ultimately wrong in this instance but I am quite wary all the same. Interesting article.

  38. hugoagogo

    April 6, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    From the fourth document:

    “…with recipients asked to forward the survey on to others. This request included a specific statement that the survey should be sent on to other contacts, regardless of their (if known) view of the pulp mill…”

    What could possibly go wrong with this sampling procedure?

  39. mary

    April 6, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    A four week survey and you only managed 537 respondents? That despite a massive swell of “opposition” to the mill. So where was the presence of this survey advertised? On the TAP or Pulp The Mill web pages? I certainly never heard of it before now, despite following the pulp mill debate with interest. Could it be given your derogatory tirade against the mill, from the start of your article, that you weren’t interested in a balanced view?

  40. clive Stott

    April 6, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Thank you Bev for running the survey and submitting the results.
    Even whilst the pulp mill is on the drawing board people are suffering ill health as a result of prolonged and associated forest industries practices. http://www.cleanairtas.com Should the mill proceed this must escalate for all the reasons made known to the community for many years.
    We are now being told Tasmania is the dumping ground for Victorian forest smoke. I wonder if this was taken into account in the pulp mill assessment?
    Tasmania has the highest rates of asthma and non-skin cancer in Australia. People have legitimate reasons for health concerns with this project.

  41. Garry Stannus

    April 6, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you Bev Ernst, a great TT read and much follow-up reading provided.

  42. MArk Wybourne

    April 6, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Another crock survey, with a toffy sounding title from smeone discussing it (i.e more smoke and mirrors from the anit brigade).

    Well, I have done a similar survey of people in the Tamar, and got pretty much the opposite results … go figure

To Top