Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Going Through The Mill

Just down the River from where my family lives is the proposed site of the world's largest Pulp Mill. Originally I was reasonably disinterested in this proposed development when it was first mooted in 2003. Then in 2006 the Proponent submitted their Integrated Impact Statement. Normally a developer has to submit an Environmental Impact Statement, but perhaps due its significance this proposal had to evaluate not just its environmental impact but its social and economic impacts as well. When this I.I.S. was submitted to the State Government appointed Assessor, the Resource Planning and Development Commission, significant aspects of its proposal had been changed. This left virtually no time for public submissions to comment on this new proposal since most had assumed that the Proponent was going to formally present its original proposal. Even at this stage I was particularly peturbed though. But then more inconsistencies seemed to emerge that led to me being formally invited to comment on this.

I wrote a brief paper on the broad issue of how Christians might respond to environmentalism and in particular: forestry. I then took this Biblical foundation and addressed the ethics and morality of the proposed Gunns Pulp Mill. This went through a fairly rigorous peer review process with several pastors contributing comments and suggestions to its final outcome. It was then distributed to a wider readership of pastors for their comment. Once we collated those comments and polished them into the final draft, approval was given to publish it and distribute it through my email mailing list. Within an hour or so of it being published on the web site (www.findingtruthmatters.org) I was contacted by a State Parliamentarian who requested that it be removed because it was so factually flawed. This then was the beginning of an interesting journey.

Some have suggested that perhaps it was because our weekly radio program is perhaps the most listened to Tasmanian Christian radio program in Tasmania; or, that our weekly audio podcast is one of the most popular Christian podcasts in Tasmania; or, that our websites have some of the highest traffic in Tasmanian for a Christian web ministry; or, that the Christian community is perhaps the single biggest unorganised voting block in our State- (who knows?) but our concerns were certainly treated very seriously. Within 24 hours of publishing the Paper on the findingtruthmatters.org website I was invited to meet with the Pulp Mill Project General Manager. When Sue Neales found this out she rang for an interview and published this in the Mercury Newspaper. From that story breaking I have been interviewed by several national newspapers and most recently, Four Corners ABC Television who came and filmed our church service and me preaching.

Since the Sue Neales article appeared I don't think a day has gone by without someone ringing, writing, emailing, or dropping in to tell me their story regarding this issue. Added to this have been the many Parliamentarians who have contacted me to express their disappointment with me. But to the credit of the Proponent, they have used this as an opportunity for dialogue. I have now met with the management of Gunns three times, the latest meeting being yesterday, where I have continued to raise community concerns with them. The motivation for doing this is both the pursuit of the truth in the public arena, and a deep care for our Valley. It is my prayer that God's will will be done in regard to this Pulp Mill and the truth will come to light. But ultimately my prayer is that this Valley will come to know Jesus Christ as the God who gives us the earth for our benefit and what we do with it is for His glory.

Andrew Corbett

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