Hunt's Shenhua promise: IESC gets second look

16 Jul, 2015 02:59 PM
Environment Minister Greg Hunt.
If they are not satisfied I won't even approve that
Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

WHEN Environment Minister Greg Hunt appeared on talkback station 2GB on Thursday morning, it was with the promise the discussion would be vigorous – but polite.

Then, within four minutes, broadcaster Alan Jones was shouting.

Mr Hunt was invited on to the Alan Jones Breakfast Show to defend the federal government's approval of the open-cut Shenhua Watermark mine in the Liverpool Plains of north western NSW. It ended with the minister making a commitment on due diligence that he has "never done before".

Since its approval, farmers and residents have expressed concern the mine could impact on their water supply and affect the fertility of the soil in the key food-growing region.

When Mr Hunt began to explain the basis of the mine's approval, he scarcely spoke for more than 30 seconds at a time before Jones interrupted, branded him "wrong" and demanded answers.

A report in April from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee said planned monitoring of water while the mine was in operation would not be spread over a wide enough area or performed over a long enough time period to work out water quality, get an early warning of any impacts, or detect "post-mining impacts".

Quoting from passages of the report, Jones said there were questions that remained about what the mine would do to its surroundings.

"They don't have the information," Jones shouted.

"How the hell are we approving this before saying to these people, 'If you want approval you're going to have to give us this information.' "

"Well, if you were correct, I would agree with you, absolutely," Mr Hunt responded.

When Mr Hunt began to say the mine would not be on the black soil plains (a claim backed up by Shenhua's mine plan, which says there will be a 150 metre buffer between the mine and the plains) he was interrupted once again.

"Stop. That is not true," Jones said.

"Greg, I'm sorry, you are wrong. I know you went up there for five minutes before the election. You are wrong. You are completely wrong on this."

The grilling comes after Jones railed against the federal Liberals on his show on Wednesday for their part in advancing the approval of the mine, which still requires state approval before it can go ahead.

He continued the attack on Thursday, focusing on NSW Premier Mike Baird and defending Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce for saying the land should not be compromised.

"The real outfit that's in trouble here is the Baird government," Jones said.

"Michael Baird's credibility is on the line here. He's making statements before reading the documents.

"On this, Barnaby Joyce is 1000 per cent correct, and I happen to know, there are people I have spoken to in the federal cabinet who agree with Barnaby Joyce."

In response to the barrage, Mr Hunt said he would consult the Independent Expert Scientific Committee again and publicly report its findings.

"I will do something today that I have never done before, that I am not required to do by law. I will make a public commitment," Mr Hunt said.

"When we get this water management plan back, I will refer it to the Independent Expert Scientific Committee, and if they are not satisfied I won't even approve that.

"And that's something which is above and beyond, to the best of my knowledge, anything that has happened in Australian environmental history.

"I respect your views, but I also have to respect the views of the experts in this space."

2GB is owned by Fairfax Media, the publisher of this website.

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16/07/2015 3:36:25 PM

HUNT SOUNDED LIKE HE IS SELLING US OUT. You dont need THIS mine when theres a glut of coal. The AQUIFER is obviously at risk. NO CONDITIONS ARE ACCEPTABLE. BAIRD sounds like a WIMP and wont take responsibility POLITICIANS are not listening to the people
16/07/2015 6:21:29 PM

I am concerned it takes a grilling from Alan Jones to force a public commitment from Greg Hunt. Surely the Minister is man enough to admit he got it wrong and to re-evaluate Shenhua's application. Buckpassing between NSW and the Feds is not the answer - JUST SAY NO!
17/07/2015 7:14:46 AM

Well what goes round comes back to bite us. Remember when our Govt.stopped sale of uranium ? NZ picked up the slack via the same overseas provider to dig the stuff out World Heritage Park,, not a whimper from a concerned soul then. LOL
17/07/2015 8:01:27 AM

No arguments there Lloyd.
17/07/2015 8:18:21 AM

this says it all, sadly, it is not satire anymore but the actual state of things. a102Gb-AI8&spfreload=10
17/07/2015 8:38:56 AM

out come the tin foil hat brigade with the outrage and hysteria buttons hit hard and capital letters. Take a breath, Read the independent review documentation. Understand the processes of environmental governance. Consider investors and consider our trade balance. I am not no fan of mining agricultural land but we need to get a grip and examine the facts. Please note that Allan Jones is a commercial broadcaster and he is on air because his program sells advertisements. Outrage, exaggeration beats the drum. Do not fall into line automatically. Investigate and learn.
17/07/2015 9:18:32 AM

Me thinks that at end of the day, that this mine is not economically viable. I suspect that Shenhua see that glaringly and will seek huge compensation (after its declined) for a mine that won't produce a return. I suspect that there's a theme here to grant / hold the approval and hope the whole proposition falls over without the the litigation or compensation risk exposure to the government. However the risk is too great should coal prices rebound...Trade off - withdraw mine approval & give them a good run through FIRB for a parcel of land somewhere else....not great but everone walks away
17/07/2015 10:39:32 AM

I have ask whether IESC findings could be bound by & watered down to suit the terms of any confidential contract that may exist between NSW Executive Govt & Shenhua proponents. From my evidence, when Qld EPA hired an "Independent Expert" to review disputed science on mine impacts the "Independent Expert" did not read dissenting findings from a highly qualified hydrogeologist and endorsed inappropriate Darcian flow methodology used by Regulators/ the mine to assess impacts on a karst aquifer with conduit flows. I interpret his findings were shaped to fit the mine's minimum compliance contract
17/07/2015 2:00:28 PM

Alan Jones is saying nothing new, the very same information has been delivered to the Government on countless occassions by countless people on the Watermark Mine and all the others currently being forced onto distressed Hunter communities. The Government has stonewalled and ignored and belittled these people and community groups but it seems that it will listen and can actually respond when grilled and put on the spot by the right person of influence. It should not take the intervention of Alan Jones to get some justice and action on these destructive, corrupted mine approvals.
30/07/2015 5:10:41 PM

I think you are on the money Heather. Whilst I am 100 km from Watermark I have been following developments and I honestly think the NSW Govt don't really give a damn for country people or the land. Kevin Anderson is worse than useless as he is backing the development as good for NSW. We need to give him the flick but unfortunately it'll be too late by the time we get the chance.


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