Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Gunns pulp mill environmental impact management plan approved


10 March 2011

Environment Minister Tony Burke today approved the three remaining modules of the Gunns Bell Bay pulp mill environmental impact management plan.

Mr Burke said he had also approved changes to previously approved parts of the plan after the company sought to further toughen environmental controls.

The three modules approved today are the L, M and N modules which relate to discharge and monitoring and reporting requirements.

"This decision is based on a thorough and rigorous assessment by my department and the Independent Expert Group which has carefully reviewed the modelling and scientific studies done by Gunns," Mr Burke said.

"Gunns has completed extensive scientific studies at a similar pulp mill overseas to obtain a full understanding of discharge composition and comprehensive modelling on its interaction with the sea.

"The environmental conditions approved today set strict limits on the allowable levels of discharge that can be released by the mill.

"The conditions imposed also require Gunns to develop strategies to monitor the impacts of the mill discharge on the marine environment and as well as putting in place strict response measures."

Former Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull approved the Gunns Pulp Mill in October 2007. Mr Turnbull's approval included a requirement that Gunns develop an environmental impact management plan.

In January 2009, former Environment Minister Peter Garrett deferred a decision until March 3, 2011 on three modules of the environmental impact management plan until detailed studies had been completed by the company on potential marine impacts.

On March 3, 2011, Mr Burke extended by one week a decision on the environmental impact management plan submitted by Gunns after the company sought tougher environmental controls than were contained in the original application.

Mr Burke today approved the tougher environmental controls sought by Gunns to be incorporated into the environmental management plan.

The plan now specifies that Gunns will only use plantation timber for the pulp mill and a bleaching process that uses less chlorate than first was proposed.

"Because the approval conditions specify that the environmental impact management plan must be implemented as approved, Gunns must comply with these measures," Mr Burke said.

A change to the pipeline route, which Gunns sought to accommodate requests from landowners local councils and other groups has also been approved under national environmental law.

"After careful assessment it is clear that the pipeline can go ahead along the new route by minimising impacts on matters of significance that fall under my jurisdiction under national environmental law," Mr Burke said.

Approval of the final three modules and tougher environmental controls completes the necessary environmental approvals under federal environmental law for the Gunns Bell Bay pulp mill.

The Minister will release advice on which today's environmental approval decisions were made, advice that was received but not decided on prior to the request from Gunns to incorporate tougher environmental controls into decisions on the environmental impact management plan and advice of the Independent Expert Group at www.environment.gov.au from later today.