Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Great Bund Wall Debacle

Whatever my thoughts on the necessity for the dredge program, nevertheless it was governmentally approved and therefore legal. Except…

We knew it wasn’t right. We knew they were lying to us. All the evidence showed that there was something wrong with the way that dredging program operated. After all, in spite of the scale, dredging is nothing new in Gladstone Harbour and the risks of dealing with acid sulfate soils are well known. It required a well engineered solution and careful handling of day to day operations.

The truth will out and what started as a trickle is now becoming a flood. Ironic isn’t it? ‘Blame it on the rain’ was never a valid excuse for the ecological impacts on Gladstone Harbour. Such an ecological collapse has never happened yet, no matter how much rain we have had and for it to occur several months after the floods was never scientifically credible.

Firstly, we have this leaked report which shows that the bund wall was constructed with sub-standard materials, and that the geo textile filter which should have been installed within the wall was simply laid on top. This caused the bund wall to leak and toxic materials to leach into the surrounding water.

Someone profited from the sub-standard installation – the question is who? I know who didn’t – the local fishing industry and the local people.

Secondly, we have this from the Australian: GLADSTONE Ports Corporation was forced to seek urgent permission to breach its environmental approvals in a race to plug a leaking bund wall before it ran out of space to store potentially toxic acid sulphate soils from dredging associated with the $33 billion Curtis Island LNG export terminals.

We knew that the Ports Corporation had applied to get the rules on turbidity testing changed just for them, but we didn’t know the exact reasons. They certainly weren’t forthcoming on the exact reasons themselves. If they had just come out and said at the time that the process wasn’t working, that there was urgent need to fix the bund wall, if they had just stopped what they were doing to take a deep breath and re-assess the situation. But no, when there is money involved it is full steam ahead and damn the dugongs and turtles.

Thirdly, there is this from the Gladstone Observer: THE Gladstone Ports Corporation has refused to answer questions about whether its Western Basin bund wall failed to meet its environmental commitments.

Too right it is refusing to answer questions. You see, there is a huge liability issue which you can read about here. I believe the Gladstone Ports Corporation failed us on many levels. They failed to choose the correct contractors. They failed to monitor the actions of those contractors. They failed to adequately monitor water quality. They failed to ensure no environmental harm, and most of all, they have failed to acknowledge their mistakes.

The people of Gladstone at the very least deserve an apology.

There are now strident calls for an enquiry: FEDERAL Environment Minister Greg Hunt has called for an urgent review of claims that the failure of a bund wall may have been a major factor in the collapse of water quality and marine health in Gladstone Harbour.
Environment groups have called for a royal commission-style inquiry into dredging in the Queensland port — as part of the $33 billion Curtis Island LNG developments — to establish what went wrong and whether state and federal regulators had acted responsibly.
and we really hope that it won’t deliver the same ridiculous result as the so called ‘Independent Review of the Port of Gladstone’ which found … dredging and dumping of dredge spoil in the ocean is environmentally acceptable..

As painful as it may be, the truth must and will come out, as people become ex-employees and have nothing to lose. There will be more whistles blown, there will be more leaked documents.

Because if you think the debacle of the bund wall is the only corruption of process in how business is done in Gladstone, you’d better think again.

Coal for Christmas

Right. So now I’m thinking that the current government is personally targeting myself. It’s as though they are a 6 year old, pushing random emotional buttons to see if they can get mummy to explode. (Yes, yes I did, but that’s another story).

So I’m making a list. In keeping with the season, it’s a naughty list. You (government of every level) have been very very bad.

Here are the bad things you have done which affect me personally.

1. You allowed dredging of Gladstone Harbour, ruining a fishing industry and refusing me my Australian right to queue for 2 hours in the December sun to buy locally caught prawns for Christmas.

2. You allowed great big bulldozers to clear a great swathe of Curtis Island so that as I drove over the hill, I no longer caught sight of a sweeping blue vista with a green island, but felt sick at the sight of bare earth, tanks and pipelines. I don’t go that way any more.

3. You absolutely refuse to do anything about renewable energy, causing me to have to go out and spend my hard earned dollars on buying my own solar panels so that you might get the message.

4. You refuse to subsidise public transport so that it is cheaper for me to drive to Brisbane than to take the train, which I love to do.

5. You removed the schoolkids bonus. Do you know how fast my son is growing at the moment? I buy Weet-bix and milk by the case. At Aldi. I’m thinking of getting a truck to deliver and bypass the supermarket altogether. Every cent of that bonus last year was spent in a local store on school uniforms. I have no idea how I’ll afford his man-size clothes this year.

6. You won’t deal with climate change. I live on a flood plain. Most of the time it rocks. Sometimes it sucks (about every 20 years). Unless you start dealing with climate change, I might have to deal with a flood every year. That would take the fun out of summer.

7. I cringe every time I look at the news. All levels of government are embarrassing. You know I have German relatives, right? They do love organisation and efficiency. How can I hold my head up in international relations on Facebook when their country has its s*** together and we appear to have accidentally elected several levels of government that has no idea what it is doing.

8. You treat refugees appallingly. Aforesaid German relatives were refugees at one point. So was my mother. Where is your humanity? More to the point, who looks at your books? It’s cheaper to put all refugees on the dole than to house them in sub-standard conditions on some god-forsaken island. So where is the money going? Bring them all to Australia, put them up, put them on the dole while they find their feet and then let them loose to cause all sorts of wonderful food and businesses to appear in our cities and towns. On the boat my mother arrived on in the 1950’s (yes, a boat, go and arrest her, I dare you) was a man who started the first delicatessen in ‘Sydeney’. So stick that up your pastrami.

9. You appear to be taking brown paper bags from any business at all.

10. You seem to have forgotten that you are our employees. I have no idea how you passed your last employment review (otherwise known as an election), but expect a pineapple at the next one unless you mend your ways toot suite – that’s french for sort it out before we get a chance to all vote ‘none of the above’ at the next election.

Yours Sincerely,
Anna (and about 20 million other Australians)

Dredging given nod before crucial sediment tests completed

Source: http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/dredging-given-nod-without-crucial-tests/2115005/

 

  •  14th Dec 2013 9:26 AM

 

An aerial view of the Gladstone Harbour.

An aerial view of the Gladstone Harbour.Brenda Strong

CRUCIAL sediment testing in Gladstone Harbour demanded by the Environment Department was not completed before the Federal Government approved the controversial Western Basin dredging project in 2010.

The sediment tests were requested after regulators found initial 1000-borehole testing provided by Gladstone Ports Corporation was lacking in several areas.

The revelation comes just days after the Federal Government approved Arrow Energy’s LNG project, and follows news that the State Government is investigating a private lease of the port.

A key area of the Environment Department’s request for additional testing was near the RG Tanna Coal Terminal – where molluscs were experiencing the rising effects of a highly toxic chemical (TBT) in 2009. The GPC did not give that information to authorities at the time.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information revealed the port filed an “exemption from further sediment testing” in July 2010.

Regulators found the initial testing regime was incomplete the next month.

But despite the concerns, and without the data requested, the Federal Government still approved the largest-ever dredging project in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, in October that year.

Additional results were not provided until April 4, 2011. They were not released.

But a GPC spokeswoman said the results were within national dredging guidelines, and that no contaminants exceeded the guidelines, with the exception of locally occurring metals.

She said GPC applied for the exemption as the port “believed that sufficient evidence existed to evaluate the footprint”.

But APN Newsdesk has obtained correspondence that shows regulators knocked back the exemption application, over concerns that the distribution of tests were “uneven and not representative of the whole dredge phase area”.

Despite the omission of the study on TBT from the EIS potentially breaching federal environment laws, the department said it did “not consider an investigation into this matter is warranted”.

A port spokeswoman said the GPC applied for an exemption, “which was not granted by the Federal Government”.

“GPC then undertook the additional sampling required to meet the National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging, the regulatory guidelines mandated by the Federal Government,” she said.

Conservation: You’re doing it wrong

The opinions stated in this article are the author’s own.

This article is in response to an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 December 2013.
Source: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/survival-is-winning-the-numbers-game-20131213-2zcm6.html or click here.

Tasked with trying to save almost 1000 threatened plant and animal species in NSW, the O’Farrell government is undertaking a version of “conservation triage” where scarce funding will target species with the best chance of survival.
Spending priorities will be ranked according to a cold calculus: the benefit of intervening to save a species, multiplied by the likelihood of success, divided by the cost.

Firstly, I’d just like to say this: If you are in a triage situation, you are in a war. And the other side is winning.

Let’s just analyse the situation here from an external perspective. The only reason there is scarce funding, is because the government doesn’t allocate it, unlike what appears to be unlimited funding to subsidise the fossil fuel industry. So the formula is flawed from the start because funding to save threatened species is not limited. It is only limited by political expediency within the government.

Next, the formula itself is flawed because it does not include a key variable (ecosystem services) and is too vague to be useful:
the benefit of intervening to save a species, multiplied by the likelihood of success, divided by the cost.

I guarantee that ‘benefit’ in the NSW government’s mind, is ‘political benefit’ not ‘ecosystem services benefit’. This is clearly demonstrated that what will get funding is in the ‘cute and cuddly’ range. If you added ecosystem services in, some earthworms might be more worth preserving than some bludging koala that eats leaves all day.

‘Success’ is not defined either, and I humbly submit that having a couple of breeding pairs hanging about in a zoo is not success. That is failure.

And exactly what is the cost to my unborn grandchildren of not having these species on earth? To go to Christmas Island and to hear only silence where before the air was full of the calls of the tiny pipistrelle bat?

Hugh Possingham says in the article: “It’s not any different from running any other business,” … “Everybody in the world, every day, is doing a cost-effective analysis.

With respect Hugh, you’re doing it wrong. You are all doing it wrong. You are all perpetuating an economic system which does nothing but harm to the planet and by extension, to ourselves.

We need to be doing everything differently. We need to change how the whole economic and political system works. And this is not about communism or lefty ideology. This is about survival. Of all of us. And by ‘us’ I mean every damn species on this tiny blue ball. Every single one is worth preserving. Every single one.

I do not accept your ranking system. Apply it to humans and you soon get fascism – some people are worth preserving and some aren’t. It’s a slippery slope to a very nasty place.

I do not accept your economic argument. Sometimes the most effective things that people can do to preserve a piece of their environment do not cost any money at all. It requires us to refrain from doing something. To not spend the money on the new shopping mall, but to stick with what we have. To not chase after material possessions that don’t make us happy anyway.

I do not accept you and your slippery politics. If you really wanted to save threatened species, you would fund on-ground action instead of yet another plan which wastes trees and allows these precious gems of DNA to slip through our fingers forever. Having worked in the on-ground part of the environment sector for many years, I know whereof I speak. I know the slimy caveats you put on funding. I know all about the consultation round-a-bout which produces yet another plan every 10 years and does nothing practical. And let’s be clear, when I say ‘you’ I mean every politician who thinks that money is more important than the pipistrelle.

The fact is, our economic and political system is failing us badly. It is rotten at the core. Time for a new paradigm.

Anna

Mining bigger threat to reef than agriculture, says scientist

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/mining-bigger-threat-to-reef-than-agriculture-says-scientist-20131211-2z6f0.html and http://www.smh.com.au/environment/mining-bigger-threat-to-reef-than-agriculture-says-scientist-20131211-2z6f0.html or click here.

December 12, 2013

Cheryl on the rocks December 2013
Cheryl Watson
‘It needs to be protected because it’s part of a wider ecosystem”: Cheryl Watson Photo: Dean Sewell

Mining poses a greater threat to the health of the Great Barrier Reef than agriculture, says one marine scientist who has cast doubt on the federal government’s prediction that water quality will improve along the reef coast.

On Tuesday, federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt gave the green light to the dredging and dumping associated with four coal terminals, the building of a LNG refinery and pipeline on the Great Barrier Reef coast.

Environmental conditions attached to the approval include an undertaking that water quality would improve by 150 per cent through a reduction in farm-related sediments flowing into the marine park.

But research scientist at James Cook University’s Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research, Jon Brodie, said mining activities presented a greater threat to the reef than agriculture.

”Farmers are going to be asked to save the reef when port authorities and climate change managers are doing nothing,” he said. ”It puts it all back on farmers.”

Agricultural activity within the Great Barrier Reef catchment area, such as beef grazing and farming releases sediment, chemical and fertiliser run-off. This is discharged from rivers into the sea.

However, Mr Brodie said the damage from the expansion of ports, including dredging sediments contaminated with heavy metals, could prove a greater threat to the health of the reef because – unlike run-off from agriculture – port development was occurring without any transparent and productive management of the risks.

The area off Abbot Point, where 3-million cubic metres of seabed will be dredged and dumped as part of the expansion, is near marine habitats, such as coral reefs and seagrass meadows that provide shelter and food for fish, turtles and dugongs. Cloudy water reduces the reach of sunlight that corals and seagrasses need for growth.

Mr Brodie said it was ”one more stress [on the reef] that could have been avoided”.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the conditions Mr Hunt imposed would improve water quality and protect the reef: ”We are actually making things better.”

Gladstone Conservation Council treasurer Cheryl Watson said the government would not have approved the projects if it was serious about protecting the reef.

Among them is Arrow Energy’s LNG refinery at Boatshed Point on Curtis Island, off Gladstone in Queensland. The new refinery will be the fourth on the island, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area.

Mrs Watson said while the southern part of the reef was 40-kilometres away, there were pockets of coral reef within Gladstone Harbour that would be vulnerable to industry growth.

”It needs to be protected because it’s part of a wider ecosystem,” she said.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation is due to rule on whether the Great Barrier Reef should be added to its ”World Heritage in Danger” list next year.

with AAP

Hysterical? I’ve got a right to be.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-10/north-qld-coal-port-expansion-approved-with-strict-conditions/5147916

From the above article which you can read in full here: “Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche praised Mr Hunt for using the weight of scientific evidence to put Queenslanders ahead of “increasingly hysterical environmental activists”.”

Interesting. The usual dismissal of anyone who opposes big business as somehow weak and foolish. If there is anything I have learnt from being a parent, it is that children get hysterical when they are ignored.

So, yes I am hysterical. Also, I am apoplectic with rage and I am miserable with despair. I am furious that not one sitting member of the ruling party in Queensland is actually listening and acting on our genuine concerns about the planet’s life support system. The weight of the scientific evidence is that the coal in the Galilee Basin should be left in the ground, for the ultimate benefit of all Queenslanders.

Now I am not some bleeding heart hippie type person. I am perfectly capable of killing my own dinner and have done so. I grew up in the country, where there is no leeway for squeamishness when there is a job to be done.

I am the proud possessor of not one, but 2 university degrees and a diploma. I have a degree in Science and one in Law, plus the diploma to allow me to be a solicitor. Some might call that over-educated, but in the field of climate science that barely qualifies me to have an opinion.

And my considered, non-hysterical opinion on the latest decision by the Queensland Government is that it is insane. How can we be approving yet another massive coal port in such a sensitive area, let alone approving the dredging that will be required? The evidence from the Port of Gladstone is that dredging severely damages ecosystems. And the particular ecosystem we are talking about is smack bang in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. This ecosystem is of such beauty and importance that it has been protected by the world.

That’s right, the whole world thinks we should protect it. And what is our government doing? It appears to be doing its best to destroy it in a stupid temper tantrum. I have no political leanings – this government and the previous one appear to be indistinguishable from each other and even the Greens are now doing dirty deals.

The thing is, once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can’t bring back an extinct species, whatever Jurassic Park would like you to believe.

So yes I am getting hysterical, in the hope that if I shout loud enough, maybe someone making these decisions will hear me and look at the science.

Anna

Sea level rise no longer considered in Planning Scheme

This was originally published on Gladstone Conservation Council’s Facebook page. The opinions are the author’s own.

“…we’d all better start praying, because the inevitable outcome of this poor policy is property damage and deaths. ” Read more below

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/sea-levels-no-longer-included-in-state-government-planning/story-fnihsrf2-1226778167541

From the linked article (address above) which you can read here: “A leaked Property and Infrastructure Cabinet Committee paper says: “Any local government that elects to include some allowance for sea level rise in their planning schemes will need to justify that the state interests relating to economic development are not materially affected by this.””

Soooo we’re going to allow local councils to make their own decision on this, but we can’t tell you if councils will be insured if they allow development that gets hit by storm surge, and don’t interfere with state projects with piddling objections that they might periodically get flooded with salt water.

Having personally been in a small cabin on the beach front in Bargara as ex-TC Oswald was passing overhead, I can tell you that storm surge is a real issue. Every high tide, the waves got closer, until they were almost underneath the cabin. As sea levels rise, this will only get worse during every extreme event.

I am all for allowing for local knowledge in planning decisions, but only the State Government has the resources to commission the studies to work out where storm surge will cause the most problems. And the money for the major works required to protect existing infrastructure. Local councils will have to do this by guess and by God and with few resources. And speaking of the big fella (no disrespect intended) we’d all better start praying, because the inevitable outcome of this poor policy is property damage and deaths.

By not including something as basic as sea level change in their policy, the State Government is putting money before people. That is unacceptable.

In the end, nature will win out. I just hope I’m not in a tourist cabin on the beachfront when it does.

Anna

Cultural Heritage destruction at Boatshed Point

03 December 2013

It’s not like Gladstone has a lot of cultural heritage. Unlike some other old settlements in Australia, there aren’t a lot of historical buildings around.
Which makes it all the more important that what little we have is protected and preserved.
This part of the Arrow EIS has recently been drawn to our attention:

Full document can be found here

25.4.1 Known Non-Indigenous Cultural Heritage Sites

The following known non-Indigenous cultural heritage sites will be completely destroyed during the construction of the Boatshed Point construction camp and Boatshed Point materials offloading facility:

Site No. 8: Ruins of rendered brick building.

Cottage at Boatshed Point 2 Cottage at Boatshed Point 1

These photos were taken by Cheryl Watson in 2012.

More photos are available in the EIS

Our concern is this: by what right does a multinational destroy our children’s cultural heritage, even if they promise to “Record the … sites in detail prior to construction and destruction” (EIS Table 25.2 – C25.02). There are people living in Gladstone right now who are descendants of the pioneers who built these items.

Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, these buildings have limited historical value. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, the people of Gladstone are unimportant. Nevertheless, this is where we live, and we must protect our heritage. After all, once these buildings are destroyed, they can never be replaced.

And all this for someone else’s short term profits?

It’s a betrayal of our children for ‘thirty pieces of silver’.

——————

25.4.1 Known Non-Indigenous Cultural Heritage Sites
The following known non-Indigenous cultural heritage sites will be partially or completely destroyed during the construction of the LNG plant:
Site No. 1: “Birkenhead” outstation.
Site No. 2: Grave at “Birkenhead” outstation.
Site No. 3: Post cutting site.
Site No. 4: Old yards.
Site No. 5: Stock enclosure.
Site No. 6: Historic fence line (will be partially destroyed).
Site No. 10: Former dairy site/fisherman’s hut.
The following known non-Indigenous cultural heritage sites will be completely destroyed during the construction of the Boatshed Point construction camp and Boatshed Point materials offloading facility:
Site No. 7: Pre-1870 track alignment.
Site No. 8: Ruins of rendered brick building.
Site No. 9: China Bay yards occur in the project area for the LNG jetty and would be completely destroyed during construction. However, this site is likely to be impacted or destroyed prior to the construction of the LNG jetty because it is located within the construction footprint of the Santos Gladstone LNG project materials offloading facility, which is under construction. This site will be destroyed and no mitigation is required under the project.
Site No. 11: Various fence alignments (Targinnie) may be disturbed by the construction of TWAF 8 if found to be located within the project area.

Full document can be found here (secured pdf) or here (interactive web)