Thursday 12 July 2007



Mr FINCH (Statement) - Mr President, there is a political saying which I am sure most of you are aware of, that perceptions count more than reality and that is what the northern tourism industry, in fact the whole Tasmanian tourism industry, will be dealing with if a pulp mill is built in the Tamar Valley; perceptions. Whatever the reality, potential visitors will be seeing Tasmania not as the Apple Isle, not as the Tasmanian wilderness experience but as Tasmania the pulp mill isle divided. These perceptions, right or wrong, will also have to be dealt with by our food and beverage industries. They will be a factor in the marketing of all Tasmanian products.

Everyone in the Tasmanian tourism industry knows that it is image that counts. And Tasmania's image is going to change forever if a pulp mill of the type proposed is built in the Tamar Valley. That image starts right here with the perceptions of us Tasmanians. It is already known in the rest of Australia and in the wider world that Tasmanians are divided over this project. It is widely known that many of them feel duded by the curtailing of the approval process. So the perceptions of outsiders grow out of the widely reported perceptions of locals.

Local perceptions are deeply divided. Is division a visitor attractor?

These perceptions out there in our community, the wider country and in the world did not need to be so. Before the curtailment of the RPDC process most people in the Tamar Valley supported the assessment and were ready to abide by the umpire's decision. I have been arguing for the thoroughness of the RPDC process wherever I travel in my electorate and most people I spoke to agreed it was a proper process and that the final decision would be reached fairly. So we now have changed perceptions of Tasmania which the tourism industry will have to counter.

We have a potential new perception of our clean and green image which our primary industries, our food and beverage marketers will have to cope with. It will only take a few visitors traveling in the Tamar Valley, on the wine route, to smell something odd like rotten egg gas at the cellar door and that will put a new perception of Tasmanian wine abroad. It will only take one study showing that the pulp mill effluent from off George Town has washed up the Tamar on the tide to a fish farm to change the perception of trout and salmon raised in the estuary. I believe there would have been an entirely different perception had the umpiring process been allowed to continue or a pulp mill not been proposed in one of the State's biggest tourism and population centres, with air inversion and environmental factors. The perceptions –

Mr Harriss - You're ignoring commercial reality.

Mr FINCH - I am talking about perceptions. The perceptions of Tasmanians would have been entirely different if a site like Hampshire had been chosen. This is because the local perception of the project would have been entirely different and therefore the perception of Tasmania, further a field, would also have been more favourable.

Mr Aird - But it wasn't commercially viable. They'd lose $20 million a year there. Do you understand that?

Mr FINCH - It would have been an image that the tourism industry, which is worth millions and millions of dollars, could have built on. However, it looks increasingly likely that we are going to have to deal with the reality of an unpopular pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. The tourism industry, the wine industry, the rest of the food and beverage industry and any industry that depends on the perception of Tasmania will have to evolve a marketing strategy to counter a new perception of Tasmania.

It seems to me, Mr President, a great pity that the ITS Global social benefits report did not deal in more depth with perceptions. The reality is that Tasmania will probably have to deal with the perceptions over many years to come.