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Victorian Environment Minister fails the Environment

Original media release on Blue Wedges web site.

Media Release 12/15/07

“Channel deepening approval by Environment Minister Gavin Jennings is scandalous”, says Blue Wedges spokesperson Jenny Warfe. “We still do not know the extent of risk from toxic sediment release, and we still don’t know who is going to pay for the project. What's more, he has set an environmental bond of only $100 million - less than the amount PoMC spent on the Inquiry process to date and less than the combined annual salaries of a few top corporate executives. PoMC is a publicly owned corporation so taxpayers will be funding the environmental bond –thus adding another $100 million to the project costs”

Port Phillip Bay provides benefits in the Billions to our economy annually. It deserves better treatment than what Minister Jennings has dealt today. There’s even more we still don’t know:

  1. Will the public see the monitoring plan or have any say in the monitoring?
  2. Will the public ever see the data?
  3. Will monitoring continue after dredging?
  4. How independent will the monitor be?
  5. Who funds the independent monitor?

There has been a consistent pattern of PoMC failing to reveal relevant documents in relation to the extent of Yarra sediment toxicity in 2004 and again in 2007 when three crucial documents have been concealed during the public submission period. Two days ago, the Minister refused to meet us to explain why he considers PoMC’s failure to release such contentious documents as acceptable. Today he sees fit to approve a project which he does not have all the facts on.

The SEES did not include the report Minor Maintenance Dredging Campaign. Water Quality Monitoring in the Dredge and Disposal Plumes. December 2006. Hale. J. That report was the basis for all water quality assessments for the Yarra and Hobsons Bay dredging and for conclusions of the Human Health Study. Only after the Inquiry closed did we learn that water quality sampling was collected during a minor back-hoe dredging operation, as opposed to a major suction dredge operation as planned - and NONE of the sampling locations were in the Yarra.

“Omission of these documents has resulted in the Public Inquiry, the Independent Expert Group, and subsequently the Planning Minister, and Minister for Environment failing to adequately consider the impacts of wider dispersal of toxic materials.” said Ms. Warfe.

“We also asked if a properly designed study to measure fish tissue chemistry data for dioxin and dioxin-like compounds called for by a project consultant towards the end of the Inquiry has been undertaken. We still do not know the answer to that” says Ms. Warfe.

Two other studies related to toxic sediments were only revealed after public presentations to the Inquiry had concluded. They are:

  1. Baseline Benthic Fauna Surveys for the Port of Melbourne DMG, SE DMG and Yarra River Estuary. Sinclair Knight Merz. Sept 2006
  2. Bioaccumulation Study. Sinclair Knight Merz. April 2006

What do these documents reveal that PoMC would wish to conceal them from the public?

“Minister Jennings has declined to examine all the facts and has de-valued the Bay. Minister Garrett must not rely on the flawed SEES documents to make his decision under the Federal Environment Protection and Bio-diversity Conservation Act” says Ms. Warfe.

Further media releases

Federal Court update 07/12/07

Court Battle to keep dredge out 04/12/07