Why don’t bits of molonglo need an EIS?

johnboy 30 July 2009 30

The Greens’ Caroline Le Couteur is once again asking tricky questions, this time wanting to know on what basis Andrew Barr, as the planning Minister, decreed that certain parts of the planned new city centre of Molonglo didn’t need to undergo a Environmental Impact Study.

    “We would think that an EIS would help identify the right location for the border of the suburb along the river to minimise impact on wildlife, including the Pink Tailed Worm Lizard, at the rivers edge.”

    “The Minister should be open about the information he’s received and give the assurance that we are not rushing this development at the expense of the natural environment.” Ms Le Couteur said.

UPDATED: My attention has been drawn to Andrew Barr’s recent statement on this issue:

    I am keeping land release in the ACT on-track by exempting development of some of the initial land release areas in the Molonglo Valley from requiring a full environmental impact statement.

    The area for which the exemption applies comprises the south east corner of a larger area known as East Molonglo and includes the suburbs of Wright, Coombs and North Weston.

    This decision is based on advice from the ACT Planning and Land Authority after its full and independent assessment of detailed reports prepared over the past few years.


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30 Responses to Why don’t bits of molonglo need an EIS?
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monomania monomania 3:26 pm 30 Jul 09

Surely nobody can want the first 3 or 4 km of the Molonglo below Scrivener Dam to remain as highly degraded. In its present state it it would have to be fenced off if it was close to urban development. It is highly eroded and infested with exotic plants. Parts of the old Weston Creek Sewerage Works abut the river and are only partially demolished. This part of the river has been highly regulated by the Scrivener Dam for next to 50 years. So where were the carers?

I-filed I-filed 2:55 pm 30 Jul 09

How was the assessment independent?

Where is the public consultation?

Hells_Bells74 Hells_Bells74 2:52 pm 30 Jul 09

They see themselves in the worms for sure.

S4anta S4anta 2:13 pm 30 Jul 09

Hells_Bells74 said :

It’s official in this country…things with no legs and spines…

Well that’ll explain the relics in legislative assembly then.

And Bill Tuckey.

deezagood deezagood 2:03 pm 30 Jul 09

I hear your point Chewy; and yes, people will still complain and protest (especially if the EIS is dodgy and performed by a non-neutral party). But at very least, the government would be seen to be doing the right thing and having nothing to hide. It pisses me off that they als use ‘timeliness’ as an excuse for not doing an EIS (‘we can’t do an EIS because it will delay the project’). Exactly how bad are their planning processes and why don’t they factor the EIS timeframe in???

chewy14 chewy14 1:55 pm 30 Jul 09

Sorry that was meant to be:

Maybe because even when they get an EIS people still complain and say that the EIS is inaccurate?

Although i do agree that it would put them on safer ground with the public if an EIS was conducted for every major development.

chewy14 chewy14 1:54 pm 30 Jul 09

deezagood said :

Gungahlin Al said :

Why oh why doesn’t this government learn from their mistakes??

Maybe because even when they get an EIS people still complain and say that the EIS is inaccurate?

Although i do agree that it would put them on safer ground with the public if an EIS was conducted for every major development.

deezagood deezagood 1:51 pm 30 Jul 09

Gungahlin Al said :

Perhaps people should focus instead on the key message: why the seemingly increasing propensity towards avoiding EISs? I have been amazed at the almost complete lack of EISs in ACT – other local governments require them on almost all significant developments in new areas. It seems to me that in the ACT where most development being led by the government itself, people are accustomed to seldom seeing EISs happen. Major development happens in grrenfield areas almost unquestioned here. That is not a good thing.

And the current ACT Government’s avoidance of them is akin to not wanting to know the answers. I would guess this has a lot to do with so much of their budget dependent on selling off land, so desperately not wanting to minimise the land yield through those pesky nature reserves…

It is entirely appropriate that Caroline is putting these questions. It seems few others are willing to do so.

Here here Al. Any major development project warrants an EIS and failure to undertake an EIS shows the reluctance of the government to actually follow due processes and seek as much information as possible prior to commencing a development. Failure to conduct an EIS only makes folks a LOT more suspicious too, so really, an EIS will probably save the government time in the long run. Why oh why doesn’t this government learn from their mistakes??

Clown Killer Clown Killer 12:48 pm 30 Jul 09

An EIS (or EIA in other places) is about assessing the environmental impact of a proposal, and then whether those impacts are acceptable, can be mitigated, can be avoided, or only avoiding part of or the whole proposal can ensure acceptable environmental outcomes.

That’s pretty much what I was saying – although I doubt that there would be even a minescule number of instances where the whole proposal would warrant rejection on environmental grounds – simply because the number of available engineered solutions are so diverse and effective.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 12:37 pm 30 Jul 09

I had forgotten Pacminex. That must have been some nasty operation – to not get a proposal like that through in the 70s.

Oh, and you’re a three post nutbag 🙂

Gungahlin Al Gungahlin Al 12:29 pm 30 Jul 09

No CK. An EIS (or EIA in other places) is about assessing the environmental impact of a proposal, and then whether those impacts are acceptable, can be mitigated, can be avoided, or only avoiding part of or the whole proposal can ensure acceptable environmental outcomes.

The problem is that in many places the EIS is contracted and funded by the proponent, meaning there is a nexus that often ensures that mitigating measures can usually be found. As a Councillor I moved to establish a pre-approved panel of providers of EIS services, and for the Council to allocate contracts to the panel, with the costs indirectly passed on to the proponent. This broke the nexus between developer and consultant, thereby ensuring objective assessments.

A prime example of why this was needed was a major proposal for a subdivision that would bisect a National Estate register wallum heathland, known as habitat for the endangered grass parrot. Strangely, the EIS consultant found no evidence of grass parrots on the site. Right down the back of the second 6-inch thick EIS volume, under methodology, I found that their survey method was to spotlight from a moving 4WD at night. Big bloody surprise they didn’t find anything! As a result of this, Council agreed to a new EIS methodology policy that a staff ecologist and I developed, and the Qld government then went on to adopt this policy as a “model code” for other Qld councils to adopt as a local law.

But as I said before, this ws in a state were EISs are required for almost every major development. The idea that the ACT Government could rule only parts of Molonglo as worthy of an EIS is baffling. But because ACT people put up with this sort of thing, and (strangely for an ‘enlightened’ educated population) seem to have little concern about conservation issues, the government knows they will be able to get away with it.

It takes a focussed and sustained campaign the likes of the Hume power station campaign to get a shift out of this Government, and it shouldn’t have to be that way. It seems little was learnt at the last election, and we are moving rapidly back towards not listening.

RayP RayP 12:19 pm 30 Jul 09

Clownkiller,

Google “Pacminex Alumina Refinery” and read:

“The EPA at once made its mark by reporting decisively against a proposal to locate the Pacminex alumina refinery in the Upper Swan valley”

RayP RayP 12:08 pm 30 Jul 09

And again, sorry, it was not Wagerup.

The refinery that was rejected in the 1970s was never built.

RayP RayP 12:06 pm 30 Jul 09

The point was for EIS’s to provide information and recommendations for decisions on whether projects proceeded and what conditions.

The point being to ensure that environmental impacts were identified so that they were not ignored in the decisions made.

And in sensible places, this is done in a public process with public EIS reports and public recommendations so that the public is alerted to environmental impacts and is aware of the decisions made on those environmental impacts.

It is true that the EIS doesn’t itself make the decision. The decisions are ultimately made by people.

But the EIS process is intended to be a key part of the decision making process.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 12:04 pm 30 Jul 09

As I recall, one of the first things a newly established EPA did in WA was reject an Alumina Refinery on the basis of an AIS.

That’s not Alcoa’s Wagerup refinery that’s been up and running for years now?

Clown Killer Clown Killer 11:55 am 30 Jul 09

You’re still missing the point Ray. The EIS isn’t about whether the project gets approved or rejected. If Rudd told Garrett to reject an EIS then it would have been for political purposes rather than anything in the EIS. The government might try to spin it that way, arguing that their hands were tied etc.

RayP RayP 11:51 am 30 Jul 09

Sorry, I missed that Clown Killer thought he was talking about Australia.

As I recall, one of the first things a newly established EPA did in WA was reject an Alumina Refinery on the basis of an AIS.

And, I think Garrett has recently rejected a project on the basis of an EIS.

RayP RayP 11:47 am 30 Jul 09

Well Clown Killer,

I do think that other regimes at times provide a better guide to reasonable practice and general principles that the ACT.

The history and development of EIS’s has also largely occurred outside the very small ACT regime.

One of the pursposes of EISs is to alert people to issues which may lead to high mitigation costs and concerns from community groups.

Those purposes can be avoided if the process is conducted in house in the ACT bureacracy.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 11:34 am 30 Jul 09

You must be thinking of a jurisdiction outside of Australia RayP.

If projects don’t get up it’s not because of the EIS – likely reasons might be that the proponent isn’t prepared to wear the cost of mitigation or that the regulatory bodies can’t handle the political heat thrown up by self-interest groups. The EIS itself is not about deciding whether or not the proposal should proceed.

RayP RayP 11:14 am 30 Jul 09

Actually, historically, EIS’s were supposed to be about assessing whether projects should proceed.

It just that because projects are generally approved with conditions this gives people the opportunity to slide into the suggestion that they are not about assessing whether a project should proceed.

Even now, from time to time, projects are rejected on the basis of the EIS.

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