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Issue #1640      May 28, 2014

No fines, no accountability on Gladstone Harbour disaster

The recommendations arising from the failure of the Gladstone bund wall will fail to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Environment group Save the Reef says that ecocide occurred in Gladstone Harbour as a result of the design failure of the bund wall in September 2011 but the latest “Independent Review” commissioned by federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt fails to name the perpetrators of the ecocide or to recommend appropriate disciplinary or punitive action.

Save the Reef spokesperson Dr Andrew Jeremijenko says that future port directors will look at Gladstone harbour, the cost savings, the finishing ahead of schedule and be impressed with the way the project delivered on budget and on time, ignoring their environmental responsibilities and noting the failure of federal and state levels to enforce environmental compliance.

Dr Jeremijenko says the report is full of recommendations about informing the community about expected impacts, gathering more background data, publishing peer review reports, aligning water quality plans between federal and state governments, improving internal processes in the environment department and allowing for more resources for the environment department.

“What is not recommended is a Royal Commission into Gladstone harbour. There are no fines, there is no accountability, there is not even a lot of money required to implement the recommendations.

“It is astounding to note that the panel of the ‘Independent Review’ did not even bother to hear from Gladstone Ports Corporation whistleblower John Broomhead, the man who as environmental manager first alerted state and federal bureaucrats to major problems with the bund wall.

“Ultimately the ‘Independent Review’ found the federal Environment Department made a few ‘mistakes’ in Gladstone Harbour.

“The report authors have said we will admit that much and report it, and recommend that the federal department try to do better next time.

“There is of course no guarantee that they will do better next time at Abbott Point which was approved before all these recommendations came out. Or in the ones that are approved after the recommendations, like Cape York, Townsville, Cairns and Mackay.”

Save the Reef says that the social licence to dredge Great Barrier Reef world heritage areas was lost in Gladstone harbour. Dr Jeremijenko says that this report doesn’t fix that.

“No-one in their right mind would let state-owned or private ports create more Gladstone harbour disasters up and down the Great Barrier Reef coastline.”

Next article – Good riddance: Santos CSG rolls out of the Pilliga

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