Tasmanian Times


There was so much smoke it was hard to pinpoint where the burns were …

Near Grindelwald, Tamar Valley, 2009 … and the smoke blankets all …

Back in 2008/09 Tasmania was blanketed with shocking planned burn smoke. It was happening before this but let’s start here. In fact there was so much smoke it was hard to pinpoint where the burns were.

I can remember looking at my flag to get an idea of wind direction, donning a facemask and driving around looking for tell-tale signs.

On a bad day it reminded me of when I worked for Ansett Airlines and took off from Essendon airport to fly back home to Tassie in the jump seat and hit low rain cloud shortly after take-off; it was just like throwing a grey blanket over your head and daylight turns to night.

Living elevated at Grindelwald made it a bit easier. I could see for many miles in most directions.

But smoke had the advantage, it could travel further than what I could see.

This pernicious smoke had become a matter of life or death for me so I started up a website called cleanairtas.com http://www.cleanairtas.com and later added ‘smoke watch’ to it. Other people were having the same health problem and started to contact me to let me know where they had observed burns and/or smoke. This was not stopping the smoke but it gave me some ammo to use late in the night when I couldn’t sleep because of smoke induced asthma and life-saving drugs.

It also gave me more time to observe smoke travel in the state.

I would drive down to Brady’s Lookout just a few kilometres north on the West Tamar Highway. From there I could watch the deadly smoke clouds coming in on the prevailing weather.

Where was some of this smoke coming from I wondered? Then I learnt that PM10’s can travel a 100 Km and Pm2.5’s a 1000Km and be airborne for days.

It was hard to get anybody to listen when you could not pinpoint a burn. Many times I wondered why WE had to this detective work when we had agencies that surely must have known who was planned burning and who was not.

From my vantage spot I could see smoke mostly coming across from the West. Some smoke further out to the coast would glide straight past towards our North East. At times smoke closer in would break into two; some would carry on to our North East and some would turn and come into the Tamar Valley. On other occasions all the smoke would turn and come into the Tamar Valley.

I also observed planned burn smoke doing the opposite when burns were lit in the N/E and the wind was right.

At about that time our EPA Air Section was setting up the Base-Line Air Network of EPA Tasmania. BLANkET is a system of air monitoring stations that report air quality in almost real time:


Armed with anecdotal evidence it was time to talk to the EPA.

With a pulp mill proposed for the lower Tamar Valley I guess it was not the time to be discussing forestry smoke coming right past their door and up into Launceston, a city of one hundred thousand people, but having worked in a stinking pulp mill I thought it WAS just the right time!

It was agreed a BLANkET station would be commissioned at Exeter and is still in operation.

The Rowella main station has since been decommissioned.

According to an EPA Update 9th January 2013:

The station at Rowella was established by the Regional Planning and Development Council (RPDC) in 2006 to obtain a year of base-line air quality data in the lower Tamar valley prior to construction and operation of the proposed Long Reach pulp mill. The Environment Division (now the EPA Division) formally took over operation of Rowella station in December 2007. The station had continued to operate to obtain further base-line air quality data for particle concentration (by TEOM) and several gas species. In September 2012 the decision was made to cease operation of this station. The Rowella station is currently being dismantled. If circumstances change in the future an assessment will be made of the need for a resumption of monitoring in the lower Tamar.

Gunns tried to say it was not a N/W wind that would bring their pollution into Launceston but was no-wind drainage from the highlands surrounding Launceston which was completely in the wrong direction.

This of course was disputed by cleanairtas when wind rising from George Town, Rowella and Ti Tree Bend was analysed. http://cleanairtas.com/gunns-pulp-mill/gunns-pulp-mill.htm

Now let’s move forward in time to the 15th October 2014.

All the air quality readings that have been gathered by our EPA Air Section, who incidentally I have the utmost respect for, are now recorded history.

So is my anecdotal evidence that smoke comes from across Tasmania and into the Tamar valley.

Go here http://epa.tas.gov.au/documents/btr_29_turn_right_tamar_rs.pdf to read “Turn right at the Tamar” where smoke from a PWS planned burn as far away as Temma on our Tasmanian west coast ended up in the Tamar valley and Launceston.

When our authorities plan to undertake planned burning in Tasmania, think again. Someone else is going to be breathing your residue. You have no right to force the population to breathe carcinogens when there are safer ways. Go here http://cleanairtas.com/departments/alternative-solutions.htm

Never again should we hear the words ‘nuisance smoke’; it is not just a nuisance, it is deadly.

And again, if anybody is thinking about a pulp mill in the Tamar valley; FORGET IT.

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  1. Clive Stott

    May 29, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    #11: Garry well written, and something that will hopefully jolt Robin Halton and the other misinformed … burners over time.

  2. Garry Stannus

    May 29, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    In my opinion, it’s morally unacceptable to tell a bloke who has COPD that he’d better get used to the smoke. There are many in this state who suffer whenever exposed to smoke.

    Regrettably, some die from it. Smoke is also a threat to those who are nominally healthy. Slash and burn is a practice that began in Neolithic times and unfortunately persists to this day, even (in a modified form) in our own state of Tasmania…

    Miranda Gibson spent more that 250 days in her Observer Tree, protecting that area of forest from the destructive practices that characterise forestry in Tasmania. Immediately below her, I observed and photographed whole sections of bush knocked down. Between one loop in the climbing road, some dozen or some gums were removed while all that remained (including celery top) was knocked over. I agree with what Miranda wrote:

    The so-called “regeneration burns” are a tool used to engineer the forest, killing off the rainforest species that naturally form the understory of Tasmania’s amazing wet eucalypt forests, and to encourage the proliferation of eucalypts which are the trees sought for future logging. The clearfall and burn method is destroying the natural forest ecology to turn it into a loggers wonderland, at the same time that it is dumping massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and polluting people’s lungs with particulates that are injurious to health.

    Burn, burn and burn hard! – A handy guide to the culture of fire:

    arson, arsonist, bio-mass, burn, burner, burn-back, burn-down, burn-hard, burn-off, burn-out, burn-up, bushfire, controlled burn, ecological burn, fire, firebrand, flame, fuel reduction burn, high intensity burn, incendiary, incendiarism, incendiarist, low intensity burn, planned burn, pyromania, pyromaniac, pyromaniacal, regeneration burn, residue burn, rubbish burn, spark and wildfire

    From the Giant velvet worm of the north east, to those with no escape from pernicious backyard, farm and forestry smoke, from the understoreys sacrificed for the subsidised employment scheme called forestry to the soils that are cooked, killed and make their way into our waterways, I call for strengthening of our Forest Practices Code and of our Environmental legislation. We don’t need spurious ‘public safety’ burns, we need clean air and common sense.

  3. Frank Strie (Terra-Preta Developments)

    May 25, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you Alison Bleaney #8,
    as you already know by now, I had a look at the above link of the 2013 NTN report.

    This is what I can strongly agree with:
    “The National Toxics Network calls on policy makers and government authorities to take
    a broader view of the impacts of poor choices in resource recovery. This should not just
    be a discussion for the ‘energy sector’ or the ‘waste management sector’. Resource
    recovery affects all Australians and we must strive for the best environmental, social
    and economic outcomes[.](Full Stop it should be) –
    The rest is a mix of all sorts… more fear, selective, ignorant, etc. etc.

    May I suggest two sources:


    Kind regards

    Time will be judge

  4. Clive Stott

    May 25, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    And in #7 I should have included the Cancer Council.

  5. Alison Bleaney

    May 25, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    And what are the costs of “burn, burn, burn hard…”?
    Health costs? Any costings out there? If not why not ?
    Surely with all the knowledge re the adverse health effects of PM 2.5 and smaller particles, and the patterns of smoke travel in Tas, then this present approach to burning in the State is not without the risk of future litigation. Denial is not a recommended way of handling such risky practices, and there needs to be a holistic approach to saving life and essential infrastructure with fuel reduction burns and high intensity burns.
    What are the full economic costings (roads, haulage, building burning facilities) of burning wood waste from the forest floor (genuine waste), ensuring that no air pollution escapes from the chimney? What are the costs of burning wood cleanly so there is no associated air pollution? How does that relate to the costs of solar, wind and hydro energy ie our present cleaner “renewable energies”?
    The atmosphere does not distinguish between fossil fuel CO2 and biogenic CO2 production from burning wood (which it does greatly) and surely the renewable energy sources need to have minimal CO2 production?

  6. Clive Stott

    May 25, 2015 at 2:35 am

    It appears there is a:
    Tourism-Forestry Protocol Agreement. A code of mutual understanding.
    And a:
    Wine Industry- Forestry Protocol Agreement.

    How about a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the burners and the hundred or so thousand people in this state acknowledged by our DHHS to be made ill by smoke?

    It is time our Minister for Health, our Asthma Foundation and our Heart Foundation joined forces to draw up a MOU with the burners and put it out for public comment.

    We are chasing our tail with a health budget going up in smoke whilst these harmful smoke practices continue.

  7. Robin Charles Halton

    May 25, 2015 at 2:20 am

    Clive its about time you got used to Tasmanian traditional outdoors practices to reduce the effects of wild fires.

    Oh I miss the firebrand and the smell of burning gum leaves.

    I was talking to a Senior Tech Forester from Huon a few days ago, one of the best years on record for regeneration burns and plenty of fuel reduction jobs out of the way
    Of cause I am not telling you why!

    Burn, burn and burn hard thats my motto.

  8. Frank again

    May 25, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Thank you for all these years of serious work in this important, essential vital area of information sharing.
    Yes, like you I can read the clouds and morning and evening colors and the haze that comes in year after year – season after season.
    How much area is burned in Victoria again every year?
    How much area is burned in Tasmania every year again? How much does it cost the public?
    How about calling these practices clearly wasted opportunities and wasted resources?
    What I do know is that our own solar hot water tubes respond very accurately to soot + water vapor in the atmosphere.
    A sudden drop off in performance – no matter how “silver tongued” the BOM weather forecasters deal with the controversial issue for years now.
    Time will judge what comes from all this!

  9. Richard Browne

    May 24, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    #1 Why do this? Is this done in the tourist areas where big money comes in? I highly doubt it….Yes Wineglass Bay apparently to save the tourists from incineration….The mind boggles..forget tourism in Tasmania..and go and have a look at the Dial Ranges near Penguin…huge patches of incinerated trees..it almost looks like an arsonist has gone through there..

  10. Luca Vanzino

    May 24, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    In essence – State sanctioned violence.

  11. Pete Godfrey

    May 24, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Yes Clive and who can forget the fires in March 2010. The smoke was blamed on fires in Victoria and we were not told that it was mostly coming from the Dublin Plains area near Lake Rowallan.
    There were 5 fires with permits on the 16th of March 2010 in the Dublin Plains, Arm River area. Of course these were ignored and the smoke was supposedly coming from Victoria, even though satellite images showed that Victorian smoke was being blown east out of Bass strait.
    Just another case of being lied to when it is convenient.

  12. Shirley Brandie

    May 24, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    I am absolutely horrified seeing all this smoke covering everything and, without a doubt, causing sickness and possible death.
    Why do this? Is this done in the tourist areas where big money comes in? I highly doubt it.
    Too many people believe that Australia is a healthy place to visit. They will be shocked to know that away from the tourist areas there are people being doused in smoke. Just incredibly ignorant and down-right stupid!
    Treat your residents in the same or better way than you treat occasional visitors.

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