Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Kangaloon Aquifer - A Round One victory

We have had a Round One victory on the Kangaloon Aquifer issue. Thanks are due to the Mr Malcolm Turnbull MP for having the courage and determination to make this decision. The issue has been carried mostly by the combined efforts of the Save Water Alliance, the Robertson Environment Protection Society and the NSW Farmers Association - who have all contributed to joint presentations to the Department of Environment and Water Resources. Also many local individuals have made personal representations to Mr Turnbull, for which we are deeply appreciative.
This afternoon, Federal Minister for the Environment, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, announced that he has decided that the issues raised with his Departmental Officers, to do with Kangaloon Aquifer, were indeed "Matters of National Environmental Significance" - as defined under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC ) Act. Furthermore, this amounts to a "prima facie" decision that the Sydney Catchment Authority's borefield proposal posed a significant threat to endangered ecological communities and other "listed" species.

Photo of the leaves and flower of the Mittagong Geebung (Persoonia glaucescens) - one of the EPBC Act listed species found in the Kangaloon Aquifer area.

As Mr Turnbull's statements says:
“The Kangaloon area supports the listed "Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on Sandstone" ecological community. Following the results of trial pumping earlier this year, and review by a number of respected hydrologists, I have deemed that significant impacts on this listed ecological community could not be ruled out at this stage.”

Butler's Swamp - one of the "listed" Endangered Ecological Communities mentioned by Mr Turnbull.

This is a wonderful decision for the environment, and thanks are due to all of our loyal, local supporters. The members of the Save Water Alliance have done a terrific amount of work on this issue, and I wish to particularly thank Bernard Eddy for all his work, enthusiasm and encouragement (and for the funny moments too).

I wish to make special mention of the local potato farmers and dairy farmers and the "Friends of the NSW Farmers Association", without whose support we would not have been able to commission the respected consultant hydrologist, Mr Ray Evans, of Salient Solutions. His contribution was extremely significant.

Leon Hall, Bernard Eddy, Prof. Gavan McDonell, & Ray Evans
outside the Environment Department last month.
Jonathan Bell had been with us,
but had left before I grabbed my camera.

Thanks to the NSW Farmers Association, especially Mr Jonathan Bell. I also wish to mention Mr Phil Herd, the founding Chairman of the Save Water Alliance, without whose determination and drive, especially in those early days, we would not be in this position today.

The President of the Robertson Environment Protection Society, Leon Hall has done a huge amount of work in opposing this proposal, and congratulations are due to him for his efforts, and also his personal encouragement of my efforts in identifying local rare and endangered plants.

Professor Gavan McDonell gave us sound advice on the specific issues to address in our approach to the key decision-makers in Canberra.

The list of other supporters is nearly endless, but financial supporters, people from the local Southern Highlands community, well-wishers, and our group of trusty volunteers, have all been a terrific support. Olivia Isherwood, Mim Merrick and Kim Martin warrant special mention, as does David Thompson, in particular for his vision for our Website.

Thanks to all the people who turned up to our Public Meetings in Robertson and Bowral, for their moral support too.

Thanks also to the local political candidates in the recent State Election who also offered their support against the pumping of the Kangaloon Aquifer - Pru Goward, Paul Stephenson, Anne Sudmalis, Ben van der Wijngaart and Sonya Mackay.

This is a Round One victory only, in that the matter will now go back to the NSW Government for a genuine Environmental Assessment. Hopefully that will be more scientific and more rigorous than the superficial statements which the Sydney Catchment Authority presented to the Federal Government in the initial submission, accompanying "Referral No 2006/3209".

That document from the SCA was a disgrace, and its deceptive and misleading statements are largely responsible for the failure of their original proposal. It is no surprise that their facile assertions that damage to the environment would be "minimal" failed to convince the Federal decision-makers.

Proper environmental assessments (conducted across a full year, and including accurate study of the status of all known threatened species in the area) will be the minimum requirement, if the required Environmental Assessment (EA) is to have any credibility.

The professionalism of the Sydney Catchment Authority is now under public scrutiny. We know they take great pride in their work - largely with good reason. However, when it comes to the preparation of the Environment Assessment, as now required under the EPBC Act, it is time for them to match their rhetoric. They need to undertake a genuine scientific analysis of the Kangaloon Aquifer, and the environment which it supports. They ought also establish a genuine, inclusive process of community consultation, in preparation of their Environment Assessment for the Upper Nepean Borefield proposal.

Furthermore, a thorough assessment of the impacts of the proposed borefield on matters of Aboriginal heritage (in the full borefield - not just along roadsides) ought be presented to the Minister for Planning, Mr Frank Sartor, as an integral part of the Environmental Assessment.

If the EA does not meet these basic requirements, then we will be pressing the Federal Minister for Environment to reject the NSW Government's Environmental Assessment, when that document is submitted back to the Federal Authorities.

No comments: