THE HON PETER GARRETT AM MP
MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, HERITAGE AND THE ARTS
8 JANUARY 2009
SUBJECTS: SA Govt proposal to open the barrages at the Coorong; Sea
GARRETT: Good morning. I just wanted to make clear the decision today
that the South Australian Government’s proposal for the consideration of
transfer of sea water from the Coorong to Lake Alexandrina will be a
controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Today’s decision means that South Australia’s proposal will be subject to a
high standard of environmental impact assessment, that there will be
sufficient opportunity for the public to comment on that proposal and that all
the relevant environment matters that attach to South Australia’s proposal are
fully and comprehensively considered.
The Environmental Impact Statement will be required to be drawn up and
formulated by South Australia according to terms of reference that are set by
me and by my Department. My expectation is that the process will take some
moths to conclude.
Today’s decision is simply to recognise that South Australia’s proposal now
means that there will be an Environmental Impact Statement on the proposal
for potential transfer of sea water from the Coorong to Lake Alexandrina. It
will be subject to a comprehensive and exhaustive Environmental Impact
Statement and there will be sufficient opportunity for public comment in that
JOURNALIST: There has been a bit of a delay in terms of the deadline in
making this decision today. Why has there been that delay?
GARRETT: There is always going to be a little bit of delay through the
Christmas and New Year period, but we are now in a situation where this is
clearly being designated as a controlled action. That means that it will be
subject to environmental assessment at a high level under the relevant
legislation and I am confident that an exhaustive and comprehensive process
of assessment is now underway.
JOURNALIST: So does this mean that the State Government’s proposal to
go ahead and pump sea water in there – does this mean it is a step closer?
GARRETT: No, what today’s decision means is that the South Australian
Government’s proposal for sea water to go from the Coorong to Lake
Alexandrina is to be a matter of comprehensive environmental assessment
under the relevant Commonwealth legislation and that there will be sufficient
opportunity for the public to comment on that proposal and any likely decision
is still some way down the track.
JOURNALIST: I know there is a lot of heated environmental debate between
scientists about this. I assume you’re not in a position to have any
perspective on who is right or wrong, but do you have an opinion?
GARRETT: What I can say is that it is important for South Australia’s proposal
to be considered in a comprehensive and exhaustive fashion and that is what
today’s decision is about. The public has an opportunity to provide input. The
environmental assessment will be full and rigorous and there are now some
months to go for that process to conclude. As the environmental regulator in
this decision, my decision today is about the Government saying that South
Australia’s proposal is now a matter that will be given a full and
comprehensive environmental impact assessment.
JOURNALIST: Can you just take us through a little bit of the problems if the
Lower Lakes run dry? I mean, what is the concern here, is this a possibility if
this State Government proposal to pump sea water in doesn’t go ahead, if
they run dry will this be a major problem?
GARRETT: Well look, there are very serious issues attached to the state of
the Murray Darling Basin in general including the Lower Lakes and the Murray
Darling Basin Commission has already identified the need for consideration of
additional measures if we get a deterioration in conditions in the lower Basin.
What is important about today is that it is a decision which says that the
proposal of the South Australian Government will be subject to a full
environment impact assessment. I think that’s the clear and absolutely
unqualified position that we are in at this point in time. To start speculating
about either the way in which that assessment will unfold or necessarily other
issue around those conditions wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do today.
JOURNALIST: Just the obligatory question on whaling which you get at every
press conference – given how annoyed the Japanese are at the sea
Shepherd, the activities of the Sea Shepherd down there in the South Sea,
should they be allowed to refuel at Hobart.
GARRETT: Well there is no formal request from the Sea Shepherd to refuel
but they have had that opportunity in the past. Any application would be
subject to the normal national and international legal issues, but there is not
reason in principle as to why any application to refuel in Hobart should be