It was the proposal that sunk a company and received national media attention. But the once dead and buried Tamar Valley pulp mill looks to be rearing its head again.
On Wednesday, the permits for the controversial mill will expire. It will be more than 14 years since Gunns revealed its plans of support for the project. The Tasmanian Conservation Trust is investigating legal options to have the permits deemed invalid.
No doubt many Tasmanians believe this chapter is closed, but with this expiration – more questions need to be answered. What happens now? Is there a buyer for the land or interest in the pulp mill project?
Gunns was placed into the hands of administrators KordaMentha in 2012, with its timber assets sold to New Forests. In June 2015, at least one international buyer made a formal bid on the project renewing the possibility of a pulp mill going ahead after former Premier Lara Giddings recalled Parliament in 2014 to extend the pulp mill permits until 2017.
On Monday, Treasurer Peter Gutwein said while his party did support the pulp mill once upon a time, the project would now have to stand on its own feet.
“I think it would have been a significant investment for the North of the state - there's no two ways about that,” he said. “Our position is quite clear - as a government we're not prepared to do anything further for that project.”
There is no doubt that Northern Tasmania needs projects that will stimulate the economy and provide employment and opportunity – something this project promised. During the Tamar Valley pulp mill saga, Burnie’s Australian Pulp and Paper Mills closed in 2010. Eight years later, the same company – Australia Paper – closed its Shoalhaven Mill, in NSW, after a decline in paper products.
It is certainly time to move on and put energies into innovative project that will take the state forward. Only last week University of Tasmania Pro-Vice Chancellor of Communities David Adams and Communities partnerships and regional development team member Andrew Pitt wrote that trends are changing with society with a move towards “lifelong learning becoming the norm”.
Yes, the pulp mill was polaraising, but the benefits would have been a shot in the arm for our region and state. The permit expiration offers a chance to see this land be used and our community reap the benefits.