Tasmanian Times

Bronwyn Williams

Maths, law and Gunns’ Tamar Valley pulp mill – a story of beer and effluent

Numbers feature prominently in many articles about the Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill, and they can be very confusing. This might help to put them into perspective – all Gunns’ figures are taken from the company’s own publications –

• Boags Brewery in Launceston opened a new facility in late 2009 which will double their capacity from 50 million litres per year to 100 million litres per year. Let’s assume they’re halfway there, and current production is 75 million litres of beer per year.

• When operating at initial capacity of 820,000 air-dried tonnes of pulp per year, Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill will use just over 64 million litres of water per DAY, and discharge 59 million litres of effluent per DAY. Every DAY, the mill will use almost as much water and discharge almost as much effluent, as Boags is able to produce in beer for a whole YEAR.

• The Tamar Valley Pulp Mill is expected to operate for 350 days of the year. That means it would take Boags 273 YEARS, at current production levels, to produce as much beer, as the pulp mill will produce effluent in ONE year.

• When full pulp production of 1,100,000 air-dried tonnes of pulp per year is reached, the mill will be using 80 million litres of water per DAY (372 beer years equals one pulp mill year), and discharging 72 million litres of effluent per DAY (337 beer years equals one pulp mill year).

• To recap – that’s 72 million litres of effluent per DAY – remember, it takes Boags a whole YEAR to produce 75 million litres of beer, and 337 YEARS to produce as much beer as the mill will produce effluent in ONE YEAR.

Why is pulp mill water usage and effluent discharge so huge? Because if the effluent from the pulp mill wasn’t massively diluted, it would be lethal to pretty much every living thing it came in contact with.

It’s also important to note that the pulp mill itself is enormous. Everyone can visualise how big an AFL pitch is – the average field is just over 22,000 square metres in area. So, keep that in mind, and think about these figures –

• Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill site is 6 million square metres in area – about the size of 270 AFL fields.

• The distance from the Rowella area on the west bank of the Tamar to the pulp mill site is about one kilometre – about the length of 6 football fields. This is a photo of the UPM mill in Uruguay, which is the same size as Gunns proposed mill, taken from a kilometre away -http://www.daylife.com/photo/0fPDepceYY7II


• The distance from the Tamar Ridge Winery Kayena site to the pulp mill is around 4 kilometres – about the length of 24 AFL fields. This photo of the UPM mill was taken from about 5 kilometres away – http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/09/03/2022481.htm.
Interestingly, Gunns have sold Tamar Ridge Wines – maybe they were concerned that the pulp mill would be bad for business.


PS Mark Wybourne – the people on the bridge are very unhappy South Americans, and guess what they’re protesting about. Many of them live and work in the Argentine city of Gualeguaychu – population 80,000 – about 30 kilometres from the pulp mill site. The mill is polluting the river running through their town, and damaging their tourist industry.

And, what about the law? Everyone knows that Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill was on the receiving end of a massive legislative boost known as the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007 (Tas).

As well as ‘fast-tracking’ approval of the pulp mill project, section 11 of the Act also protected Gunns from complaints, and claims in respect of the mill, unless criminal activity is involved.

Let’s put this in perspective. Scale everything down to a personal level, and imagine you’re living happily in an apartment block. Your neighbour decides to set up a hydroponic garden, and coffee roasting business in his apartment. He applies for council approval, and things aren’t looking good for him. You’re worried that your neighbour’s massive water usage will affect your own supply, and you’re not too happy about the smell of burning coffee beans – the council inspector seems to agree with you. Then suddenly things change. Your neighbour has a few mates on the council, and before you know it, he has his permits. You weren’t even consulted, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The council tells you that you can’t even complain.

Get the idea?

You’re stuck with your smelly, water-guzzling neighbour. Your only option is to move, but no-one wants to buy your place. And, to think you voted for your neighbour’s council mates at the last election. What a rip-off!

[The Pulp Mill Assessment Act has been challenged in the courts – in one case by Lucy Landon-Lane (Landon-Lane v Minister for Economic Development and Tourism and Premier of Tasmania [2009] TASSC 50).

Ms Landon-Lane’s application for judicial review of decisions made under the Pulp Mill Assessment Act was dismissed by Justice Peter Evans.

The judgment is a load of the usual judicial BS – it is, however, crystal clear that the Tasmanian Supreme Court has no interest in interpreting the Act to favour anyone other than Gunns. And, section 11 is so widely drawn that it will probably preclude any claims against Gunns, ever.]

Bronwyn Williams is an Accountant/Lawyer/Community Worker and passable mathematician

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


  1. hugoagogo

    March 16, 2011 at 10:37 am

    #32, I hope you’d include me in the noble roll call headed “[i]pro forestry[/i]”.

    For the record, TT publishes all my posts, it’s just that increasingly I can scarcely be fagged sending something in.

    Also, I have realised that the TT limpets cannot be swayed by the Tomkins approach, and it seems to me that the groundswell raised by TT is not all that momentous anyhow. I might be wrong, but let’s wait and see!

  2. max

    March 16, 2011 at 12:18 am

    COMALCO originally acquired this land as a buffer zone because the prevailing winds blow fluoride gas in this direction. This fluoride gas stunts the trees and is dangerous to the health of animals. COMALCO would have been sued by farmers because of the ill effect it would have on their stock. What amazes me is why knowing this the power station and the wood chip mills were allowed to be established. A vet once told me that it is safe to take animal vitamins because if a valuable animal suffers ill effects the owners will sue but humans who cares.

  3. Michael Swanton

    March 15, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    #30.Ookpik I have concerns as to the identity of the person posting. Is that person crf? Is that person mjf? Who is this person? Michael Swanton.

  4. Barnaby Drake

    March 15, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    #27. You have to remember that it’s in a highly industrialised area. Next straw dog?

    You know very well that the mill is NOT AT BELL BAY! It is at Longreach, three kilometres away, set in an area that was once designated a reserve and was heavily wooded before Gunns got their hands on it.

    And Mark – sic transit gloria Gunni might be a truer statement. (Thus all things Gunns shall pass.)

  5. mjf

    March 15, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    #30. Location right indeed. Proposed pulp mill site is 2.98 miles from Bell Bay wharf and 1.30 miles from the power stations, as the snowy owl flies. You peddle the ‘bloody miles’ line if you like but it’s an overstatement.

  6. Mark Wybourne

    March 15, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Re # 30. Actually, it is true as CRF said, it was pruchased by Gunns from Comalco some three years ago.

    I don’t know why I bother answering – this site is now being managed in a very biased fashion by the editors. Anyone notice the dearth of pro-forestry contributors lately? My understanding is that it is due to most giving up trying to contribute due to the editors not publishing the blogs.

    sic transit gloria mundi (pertaining to TT)

  7. Michael Swanton

    March 15, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    #24. So you know Bronnie, as well as Freddie, on the posting Shed a Tear for Blue Tiers? Michael Swanton.

  8. Ookpik

    March 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Actually, crrrf (@27) it was a nature reserve intended as buffer zone between the BELL BAY industrial zone and surrounding areas. I note that the “Longreach” site has transmogrified into the “Bell Bay” site so that pulpy lovers can lump it in with Comalco etc. Longreach is bloody miles away from the Bell Bay site and people from Greg Le Strange to TV and newspaper reporters should be reminded of this so that they at least get the location right!

  9. Bronwyn Williams

    March 15, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    #12,#24 Okay, let’s assume that the ‘footprint’ of the pulp mill buildings and associated infrastructure is 92 hectares, or 920,000 square metres (Could you reference this figure, because I didn’t come across it in my own research).

    We can still put the size of the mill into perspective for the average reader. Buckingham Palace in London has a ‘footprint’ of 12,960 square metres, so, instead of Gunns Pulp Mill, we could have 70 palaces on the Longreach site.

    But, Buckingham Palace is only 24 metres high. To get a height perspective for some of the pulp mill buildings, we need look no further than good old Hobart.

    You know the big white communications tower on top of Mt Wellington? It’s 130 metres high – the same height as the recovery boiler gas stack at the proposed Gunns Pulp Mill site. The recovery boiler building itself will be around 85 metres high. More than TWICE the height of the Grand Chancellor Hotel in Hobart (42 metres), and about 12 metres taller than Wrest Point Casino (73 metres).

    Even if its footprint is ‘only’ 92 hectares, the proposed pulp mill will be anything but unobtrusive.

    And, it’s worth noting that Gunns have plans for the rest of their 624 hectare site – like a quarry, a water storage reservoir, and a mill waste disposal landfill.

    The site won’t be a modest wood pulping facility surrounded by bushland, no matter how much Gunns would like to portray it as such. It will be a massive, fully utilised industrial site, with its waterfront boundary dominated by a huge structure, the likes of which most people have never seen – complete with noise, smells and belching chimneys.

    How am I doing, crffie?

  10. Barnaby Drake

    March 15, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    You might mine the Hazards at Freycinet or Mt Strzlecki on Flinders Island for granite, but you are more likely to mine Cradle Mountain for dolerite and sandstone, I think.

    “What do you mean, there’s no granite there? But we’ve signed up for the mining rights. Quick, get onto the laywers. Ask them to look into a compensation claim for NOT mining granite.”

  11. crf

    March 15, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Barnaby Drake (#24), you also need to do better than that as well. I think you will find the land was previously owned by Comalco who sold it to Gunns. You have to remember that it’s in a highly industrialised area. Next straw dog?

  12. mary

    March 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    #22 Now you are getting a bit desperate. So the size of the property is 624 ha, that does not mean the size of the pulp mill is ‘enormous’ and takes up all of that land. I expect you know this. Try http://www.gunnspulpmill.com.au/permits/epbc/B/EIMP_Module_B_Mill_site_vegetation_clearing.pdf
    Or for a map http://www.gunnspulpmill.com.au/permits/epbc/B/Appendix G – Area of vegetation disturbance relevant to this EIMP module.pdf

    So if you actually read the documentation the pulp mill site is 92 ha or 42 footy fields, they have reserved 150 ha or 68 footy fields. Doesn’t sound as good though, does it?

  13. Barnaby Drake

    March 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    #24, What it also means is that Gunns have filched an area of 624 hectares from what at one time used to be a reserve!

    How did they manage that little bit of chicanery?

  14. crf

    March 15, 2011 at 11:39 am

    #22, all that is stating is that the land title or “lot” on which the mill will be built, is 624.11 hectares in size. It doesn’t have any connection to the footprint of the mill and its infrastructure (other than the obvious need for the title hectares to be larger than the mills footprint hectares). You need to do better than that Bronnie.

  15. Simon Warriner

    March 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

    This article is more effective a critique than any so far.

    It is telling that Gunns are addressing the environmental/ forestry aspects of their problem and pointedly ignoring the abuse of process and corruption of
    democratic representation they have engaged in.

    It is in this area that they are most vulnerable. It is this area that has the greatest capacity to enrage the voting public if they are properly informed.

    It is in this area that we should be working the hardest, and it is in this area that the fools Pullinger, oosting et al have been most incompetent.

    Simon Warriner

  16. Bronwyn Williams

    March 15, 2011 at 3:12 am

    #12,#17 Check the Southern Star Corporation/Bell Bay Pulp Mill website – Draft Integrated Impact Statement Vol 2, Existing Environment – Pulp Mill Site, page 2-3:

    ‘The Bell Bay site comprises an area of 624.11 hectares’.

    That’s 6,241,100 square metres, and it’s more like 280 AFL fields.

  17. Michael Swanton

    March 14, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Good onya Bronwyn.I asked the following on another TT site with State judicial jurisdiction in mind, however should have requested Federal jurisdiction as a consideration as well.Could this be challenged in the Federal judicial arena after the recent decision made by Burke? Michael Swanton.

  18. hugoagogo

    March 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    Of the attached photos, that depicting the crowd of protestors on the bridge shows the kraft bio-refinery in the background apparently under construction.

    I presume the preceding photos date from after completion and commissioning of the KBR. I say this as the cranes are gone, there are piles of woodchips in the yard and a discrete plume of smoke is coming from the chimney.

    So I’m left wondering at the effectiveness of the preceding human wave. I wonder if a Tasmanese protest will be larger and/or more effective?

  19. max

    March 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Let’s keep the maths going. The Tamar River is approximately 64 kl long and it has a tidal rise and fall of 3.6 metres. Twice a day millions of litres flow in and out of the river. The river in fact acts like a giant suction pump and blower. The out fall for effluent from the mill is approximately 10 kl from the mouth of the Tamar. According to Gunns Bass Straight takes 160 days to flush and with 64 million litres of effluent a day going into a slow flushing area would any one believe that this effluent will not be sucked into the Tamar. It is a known fact that tidal action pushes up rivers further than it discharges and to flush properly they need strong fresh water inflows. The pulp mill will take this freshwater inflow away, pipe it to the mill and us it to carry the mill waste into Bass Straight. When the fish no longer come into the Tamar and recreational fishermen avoid the area will the mill be stopped? and the answer is no.

  20. john Hayward

    March 14, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    I have just one little nit to pick in Bronwyn’s appraisal.

    Justice Peter Evans’ dismissal of the Landon-Lane’s request for the reasons for the PMAA approval was anything but the “usual judicial BS”. Outside of Tasmania, Evans’ judgment would have been a radical departure from a fundamental principle of justice – and Judicial Review provisions – that reasons for a decision with broad implications must be supplied.

    Ad hoc rulings to effect greenie legal defeats seems to be a peculiarly Tasmanian specialty.

    And don’t expect your Tassie lawyer to say a word when the judge soars beyond the gravitational field of Australian Law
    to. Integrity, like selenium, is in short supply down here.

    John Hayward

  21. mary

    March 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    I never said that 42 footy fields wasn’t large, but then in comparison to most industrial sites perhaps not. It is not clear what you mean by the mill site in total? What is clear is that the number is wrong, very wrong. Not nit-picking, not semantics and I didn’t even have to scour that deeply.

  22. Ookpik

    March 14, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Knew it! I think you will find this is a bit of semantic argument Mary – the actual footprint of the proposed mill would be 92 ha, but the mill site in total is close to what Ann alludes to above and certainly much more than 92 ha. Whatever, 42 footy fields is a gigantic factory by anyone’s standard.

    Good thing it will never get built. I notice our favourite company’s share price has tanked again!

    Yep, Ann (@8) – means snowy owl

  23. glennis sleurink

    March 14, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Re #10 Miss Money Penny. Sent the U-Tube video to various polliticians but no response. Kim Booth was keeping it as ammunition but don’t know if he still has it. Like Simon De Lttle’s video of Giddings and Burke it should be compulsary viewing by all those mindless wonders, both Federal and State

  24. Stephani of Rowella

    March 14, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    #5 and #2 it has been done by a local artist and is used on the Pulp The Mill website http://www.pulpthemill.org/. Check the size of the existing chip mill in the lower right corner that should give you an estimate of size.

  25. daz

    March 14, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    great article. I was listening to the panel on mornings, monday, which was good to hear more perspective etc on the forestry agreement, but i was slightly confused and angered to hear Greg Gunn’s boss say in relation to the mill, that the imapacts on state and federal waters has been comprehensively assessed. My understanding apart from the pulp mill act fiasco (ie there was no comprehensive assesment), is that the impact on state waters have not. This statement came just after he said it is their job now to dispel the untruths regarding the mill and what is stoping JVP is the rightfull call for social license, as we would expect. i know is going over old ground but any one like to clarify the comprehensive assesment he was refering to.

  26. mary

    March 14, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    #6 to jump on a “minor inaccuracy” 6 million square meters is 600 ha. The pulp mill site according to Gunns website is 92 ha. But hey why bother with a minor 6.5 fold error, makes the story better doesn’t it? More correctly it is 42 footy fields.

  27. John Biggs

    March 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks Bronwyn. We had an idea of all this but your piece really puts things into perspective. Please please tell it out among the heathen! No reasonable person on reading this could possibly want the mill to happen. Just the water argument should have everyone in Launceston screaming blue murder.

  28. Miss MoneyPenny

    March 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks Bronwyn.

    Now to view what 64 million litres of industrial effluent a day looks like, we can thank youtube:


  29. Peter Adams

    March 14, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    #6…. In a crazy way, maybe Ann was correct. Our government would allow a mining company to go into Cradle Mountain to mine granite knowing full well that there wasn’t any.

  30. Ann Cadwallader

    March 14, 2011 at 11:40 am

    You can mine sandstone at Cradle Mountain ? What are we waiting for?? Think of the jobs !! This will be the little sugar flowers, on the icing, on the cake, tell Lara !

    Great stuff, anyway, thanks Ookpik too. P.S. – isn’t Ookpik an Innuit name ? You’re a long way from home !



  31. salamander

    March 14, 2011 at 10:45 am

    We can say the processes of passing this pulp mill were corrupt, but we are not allowed to call the people who did it corrupt – people like Lennon, Bartlett, Will Hodgman, Giddings, Gutwein, Aird, Hidding, who all approved of this mill.

    Just as Polley says no one in parliament is allowed to call another politician a liar, our actions and language are circumscribed by those who are supposed to be looking after our interests, but actually have their own interests at heart.

  32. Ookpik

    March 14, 2011 at 10:18 am

    …….Err, Ann, @ comment 2: Before you get jumped on from a great height by the paid trolls who haunt this site ready to pounce on any minor innacuracies, may I be so bold as to gently correct you? You might mine the Hazards at Freycinet or Mt Strzlecki on Flinders Island for granite, but you are more likely to mine Cradle Mountain for dolerite and sandstone, I think.

    I know the point is exactly the same, but these people are something else! Actually, they are probably very busy right now trawling through Bronwyn’s article searching for the tiniest inaccuracy so that they can have their little daily song-and-dance!

  33. Barnaby Drake

    March 14, 2011 at 10:06 am

    #2. Maybe someone should make a Photoshop picture of the Tamar Mill using the ACTUAL size and lets see the comparison?

  34. Philip Lowe

    March 14, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Excellent piece Bronwyn.You didn’t mention the problems that your hydroponic coffee grinding neighbour would create with increased traffic.I loved the analogy with councils and mates.

  35. Ookpik

    March 14, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Thanks for this, Bronwyn – sure puts things into perspective for us mug punters and beer-drinkers.

    On one of these threads a little while back, someone speculated that Gunns would make vastly more money simple bottling and selling the water they intend to use in their pulping process. With fresh potable water likely to become an increasingly rare commodity in the future, this is not as silly as it sounds.

  36. Ann Cadwallader

    March 14, 2011 at 9:29 am

    This is awesome Bronwyn, it should be seen and read by all Tasmanians. My husband is a photographer and graphic designer, many years ago he was asked to Photoshop images for the Ranger Uranium mine, using models and landscape photographs to give a composite image of what the mine would look like as part of the planning application and public discussion. He was asked to reduce the actual size by two thirds to make it look less imposing or ugly.
    This is normal practice and clearly is evident in that classic photo of the proposed Gunns Mill. Its been shrunk to make it look minor in visual impact. My husband is a conscientious man, and he refused to do this. They soon found someone else.
    Your photographs show the monstrous size of the mill, and what a blight it would be o the Tamar Vallley, and with the resulting publicity, would spell the end of this island’s holiday or retiree immigration, or clean food image.
    It would be like we had lost the Franklin, and Cradle Mountain was being mined for granite.

    Repeal the PMAA. No mill, never, ever.

    Ann Cadwallader

  37. glennis sleurink

    March 14, 2011 at 9:21 am

    A very good analogy but as our pollies have limited brain capacity, especially where the mill is concerned, I doubt if they will understand one word!

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