A Message from Don Burke about the Tamar Valley Paper Mill

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On Thursday 9 October, 2008 Gunns Limited of Tasmania announced that I would be an Environmental Adviser to their board.

My job with Gunns to work with them as an honest broker to achieve the best possible environmental outcomes for their forestry and pulp mill operations. I am not a PR person or spokesman for them nor am I employed to push for their Tamar Valley Paper Mill.

My job is to look at the environmental issues in relevant areas of Tasmania, to seek advice from key environmental players, to observe the Gunns board meetings and operations in general and so try to create environmental best practice. I hope to get the environmentalists and Gunns and other players together so that real problem issues can be solved.

The pulp mill is described by Gunns as world’s best practice. It is described as being an environmentally very clean mill with very clean outflows. The smells from the chimney are to be perhaps a ½ day in 5 years. This is a huge improvement over old-fashioned mills and it is my job to oversee the performance of this mill. To help them achieve these goals. In this regard John Gay, Executive Chairman of Gunns Limited, readily embraced and quickly acted on my suggestion to incorporate a biochar facility into their mills to achieve significant carbon sequestration. This will mean measurable reduction of carbon dioxide gas being released into the atmosphere.

I am concerned about issues in Tasmania over logging and the mill. I have been invited by the leader of the Greens, Senator Bob Brown to come to Tasmania to see areas of concern and to hear his concerns. I am also meeting with Vica Bayley of the Wilderness Society to hear his point of view. I hope while I am there to catch up with my colleague Peter Cundall to try to help with his problems in the Tamar Valley.

As an environmental consultant, these meetings are vital to me. At the moment Gunns and the environmentalists are making little progress with each other. My hope is to achieve real results for both sides by brokering better outcomes.

This is precisely what happens in the Landcare movement (of which I was once a National Director). This is also precisely what I did with Simon Crean MP, the then Federal Minister for Primary Industries. Together we set up the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority which was the first national body controlling the use of these potentially dangerous chemicals in Australia. The Authority (of which I was a board member for 5 years) then began removing the worst of the toxic chemicals forever. This has had a huge effect on Australia, its environments and its people.

When I did this work, environmental groups at the time were not at all supportive. Neither were they when Minister Jack Hallam and I set up NSW’s first environmental weeds legislation.

With the Gunns appointment, I am hoping for much better support. There is potential for great environmental gains for Tasmania through co-operation of all the players. I am also keen to see that the people of the Tamar Valley are listened to and looked after.

Thank you for your support.