12 November, 2009

thank you Peter Garrett MP - Federal Minister for the Environment

I TAKE my duty as Environment Minister very seriously. To protect Australia's environment on the basis of the best available scientific evidence and after considering the Traveston Dam proposal and the best available scientific evidence and other material that is in front of me, it's my intention to say "no" to Traveston Dam.

My proposed decision is based on science. It's clear to me that the Traveston Dam cannot go ahead without unacceptable impacts on matters of national environment significance.
In particular, the project would have irreversible, adverse affects on nationally listed species such as the Australian lung fish, the Mary River turtle and the Mary River cod - both of those endangered - and that these adverse effects would contribute to the further decline of the species.
In making my decision - a proposed decision - I've also considered the social and economic impacts of the proposal. I've determined that any possible economic or social benefits are likely to be outweighed by the unacceptable impacts on listed threatened species.

Now I know that there's been massive public interest in this proposal and I'm aware of many, many submissions that have been made to the Government.
I've looked very closely at the material provided to me by my department. I visited the site. I have a robust record for making sound decisions under the national environment legislation.
This has been a difficult decision. I've considered it carefully, thoroughly and comprehensively.

It's important to note that I have made - already - decisions in favour of the construction of dams; the Wyaralong Dam here in southeast Queensland and additions to a dam in the ACT at Cotter.
But I've come to the view, after considering very closely all the relevant matters that I'm required to under the national environment legislation, including social and economic matters, that this dam in my view should not proceed.
There are specific and additional matters that I've taken advice and received advice on.

They are that the areas to be flooded and the affected river system will impact on important and critical habitat of important populations of the Mary River cod, the Mary River turtle and the lung fish.

There's likely to be significant disruption to critical ecological processes for these species; breeding, recruitment and the connection between populations.
I'm not satisfied that the impacts on the long-term survival of these species would be adequately addressed by the mitigation and offset measures proposed.
The measures proposed, such as fish passage devices and the proposed turtle ramp, haven't been proven and they can't be verified until after the dam is built and operating, and sufficient time passes so monitoring can be done.
And the Mary River turtle was likely to be impacted to the extent that there could be a future decline in the species.

Additional relevant matters that have informed my proposed decision include our international obligations to protect listed threatened species; that the economic benefits of this proposal were uncertain; and that under the (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation) Act, I must consider the precautionary principle when making any decision of this kind and I've done that.

The fact is that this proposal in my view will have unacceptable impacts on threatened species that are nationally protected, and as a consequence I don't consider that the dam should proceed.
Our precautionary principle, our international requirements and considering broader social and economic interests as well, confirm that proposed decision for me.
I conclude by making a simple point: Australia's environment is of importance to all Australians. And those nationally listed species we need to protect to the best possible extent that we can.

It's my duty as Environment Minister and my proposed decision that I'm making today is made in that context. And finally saying that, I recognise that the overall threats to freshwater species in our country are great.
I take my duty as Environmental Minister very, very seriously and on that basis I've made this proposed decision about the Traveston Dam proposal today.

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