Image for Neville-Smith treating residents like mushrooms

The proposal for a woodchip export facility at Port Esperance first came to public notice in Dover late last year. Because of the lack of available information around the proposed Dover Woodchip Port there is an increasing groundswell of community interest in what James Neville-Smith, CEO of Neville Smith Forest Products is actually planning. Despite numerous invitations Mr Neville-Smith has refused to front any town hall style meetings. With just a bunch of representatives and without the presence of the CEO, the initial Dover “information” meeting in December 2017 was a complete farce.

The latest information from the Huon Valley Council is that they are still waiting on more information from Southwood Fibre (Neville-Smith Forest Products) before their Development Application (DA) becomes live. The Council is unable to make any comment at all about this DA until it is deemed a “live application”.

When and if the DA gets to Council, and is valid in that all the information is provided and fees are paid, it will then be referred to the EPA. At this stage Council presumes the EPA will make an initial assessment to make sure they have all the information they require to make a judgement. It will then be open to public representation probably for a period of 28 days if it is determined to be a Level 2 activity.

At the end of the 28 days the EPA will then start its assessment. The timeframe of this assessment will be determined as to whether it is a Level 2 A or B or C. The EPA will assess it. They can decide to refuse the application. They cannot make Council approve the proposal. If the EPA does not refuse it then Council can assess it. Council will assess the application on its merits according to the Planning Scheme. The Commissioner expects that if the EPA decides that it can proceed to Council assessment they will have a number of environmental conditions. That is up to the EPA. Whatever environmental conditions the EPA impose must go onto the final DA. Council will then assess according to the Planning Scheme. There will then be a recommendation at the end of that time to Council for approval or refusal.

Because the community will only be given at best 28 days it will very difficult for residents and ratepayers to examine all aspects of this significant proposal in that time period. This is why we have been asking Mr Neville-Smith for more information to assist us in learning more about his plans. To date he has continued to ignore the community at large and has instead held a number of secret back-room meetings with avid and enthusiastic supporters of this project, who obviously stand to gain from having their snouts in the trough.

The Southwood Fibre website, proclaimed by NSFP to be to a “one stop shop of information”, has not been updated since January as far as we can ascertain. Despite phone calls, numerous emails and letters from many members of the community to Mr Neville-Smith and Smartfibre GM Danny Peet, there has been no community engagement apart from the initial futile Dover meeting.

The end result is a good number of concerned residents and ratepayers in the Huon Valley have been forced to drop everything, roll up their sleeves and do their very best to learn more about what is proposed with this apparent 50 year-long project. A project that Mr Neville-Smith feels the valley should be welcoming with open arms as he walks on water, throwing around his cash from a private multimillion dollar company – that according to initial research may well have offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands.

When everyday ordinary citizens need to learn more about plantations, wood chipping, planning laws, shipping, crown land approvals, B-Double trucks, transport routes and the many impacts on people’s health from burning millions of litres of diesel fuel, endangered and threatened species and the overall impact and damage to our environment – it all takes time, money and resources. None of which any of us have much to spare.

In calling out for help, the Bob Brown Foundation and the Wilderness Society have come to our aid to assist in the production and printing of flyers and posters to advertise a series of community information meetings over the month of June to help raise awareness of what is being planned, and the wider effects of this proposal. Each of the community sessions will consist of a 60 minute presentation of the information which has been gathered so far, followed by a 30 minute Q&A session. There is no hidden agenda other than a dissemination of information.

We are volunteers from the community concerned about the impacts of what a 24/7, 7 days a week, 48 weeks of the year industrial scale woodchip operation may be on Dover and the Far South, as well as the many communities south of Hobart which will be affected by up to 120 B-Double log trucks per day carrying feeder logs to the Southwood mill in Lonnavale.

The impact to communities of a log truck every 5 minutes of every day traversing through Main Street Huonville, Cygnet, Kettering, Franklin, Port Huon, Lucaston, Glen Huon, Judbury, Lonnavale and more will be a game changer for life as we know it today in the South of this State.

*Geoffrey Swan is a resident and ratepayer in the Huon Valley who has a deep interest in truth, transparency and justice. In the past ten years he has been vigilant in his efforts to save the Russell River in Lonnavale from the daily polluting discharges coming from the nearby Huon Aquaculture Hatchery; and he continues his keen interest in doing whatever he can to ensure the recently sacked Huon Valley Council does not fall back into the hands of the old guard. His curiosity about the proposed Dover woodchip port was piqued when another apparent snake oil salesman rolled into town with an offer that the Huon Valley surely could not refuse.

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