04 March, 2011

Green MP threatens Tas Government over mill

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) 4 March 2011

Tasmanian Greens MP Kim Booth is threatening to bring down the state's Labor-Green Government over the Gunns pulp mill.

The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke has delayed a decision on whether to issue a final permit needed for the mill until next week.

Bass Greens MHA, Kim Booth says he will withdraw support for the Government if it offers to underwrite the project, or seeks to support it in other ways using public money.

"I would no longer have confidence in the government, I would do everything I could to ensure that the government fell on that basis," he said.

"Were Lara Giddings, for example, as Premier to provide support for the mill either covertly or overtly by legislation or funding for that project then that government would be a Dead Man Walking because ultimately a no-confidence motion ..I would support a no confidence motion in that government because I could no longer support them," he said.

In a statement, Premier Lara Giddings says finance for the pulp mill is a matter for Gunns and not the State Government.

Ms Giddings says while she supports the project, she respects that the Tasmanian Greens will have a different view.

Tougher conditions

The Tasmanian timber giant says it wants stricter environmental permits for its $2.5 billion pulp mill, after consulting community and environment groups.

Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has deferred his decision on the mill's marine modules for a week, to give his department time to consider Gunns' request.

But Tasmanian Greens spokeswoman Cassy O'Connor is unmoved.

"The bottom line is it's the wrong mill in the wrong location," she said.

"We are concerned for Tasmania's environment and we are concerned for Tasmania's marine environment and we are hopeful that the Federal Minister will respect these concerns when he makes this decision next week."

Environment Tasmania's Phill Pullinger welcomes the news, but is reserving his judgement.

"As to whether or not these are changes that are just going to be tweaking around the edges," he said.

Tasmania's forest industry groups hope stricter environmental permits for Gunns' pulp mill will make the project more attractive to a potential joint venture partner.

The company is yet to announce a financial backer, but Barry Chipman from Timber Communities Australia says the changes to the permit conditions should be viewed positively by potential investors.

"That will be a big green light, we believe, for the financial closure to come very very quick and then we can see the final phase of the journey and that is the development and commissioning of the Bell Bay pulp mill," he said.

The final Federal assessment is now due next Thursday.

Gunns shares closed at 53.5 cents after a trading halt, down one per cent on the opening.

Gunns spokesman Matthew Horan says the share price was stable after the announcement.

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