Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
19 September 2003
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today announced the environmental approval of the Meander Dam, on the condition that the Tasmanian Government takes full legal responsibility for carrying out strict environmental conditions that have been imposed.
"The proposal to build Meander Dam required my approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 due to potentially significant impacts on two nationally threatened species - the endangered plant, Epacris exserta and the vulnerable Spotted-tail Quoll," Dr Kemp said.
"I have taken this decision after a full open and transparent public review process and commissioned independent analysis of the economic viability of the proposal. I have also given consideration to the submission brought forward by the Tasmanian Conservation Trust. I am confident I have based my decision on the best possible scientific and professional advice in relation to the environmental sustainability and the economic viability of the Meander Dam proposal.
"My approval is given subject to stringent requirements that will protect the threatened species. I have insisted that the Tasmanian Government take legal responsibility for these requirements, to ensure the compliance of the dam operator, private landholders and state agencies such as the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, and Forestry Tasmania.
"In relation to the endangered plant, Epacris, the Tasmanian Government will be required to actively protect its habitat not only along the Meander river but also the Mersey river and Lobster rivulet. I am requiring the Government to take action to control disease and livestock, to minimise disturbance in forests and private lands, to embark on fencing and weed control programs, and to collect seed and propagate plants to conserve the plant's genetic diversity.
"In relation to the quoll, the Tasmanian Government will be required to set aside as much land as is flooded to maintain quoll habitat and provide a corridor to link populations. For example, they must reserve 152 hectares as a wildlife habitat strip around the dam, set aside 115 hectares of State Forest in a special management zone adjacent to the dam, and rehabilitate 137 hectares of farmland. The Tasmanian Government must also implement their commitment to a community education program to mitigate the destruction of quolls.
"The Tasmanian Government will be required to undertake regular monitoring of the impacts of the proposal on the listed threatened species, and also submit independent audits to verify compliance with the approval conditions and effectiveness of the mitigation measures. If the results show that an enhanced level of protection is needed, then the Tasmanian Government must revise the plans.
"I am confident my decision will provide a healthier and more secure future for the Spotted-tail Quoll and the Epacris exserta than at the present time by providing long term protection for the populations across their range."
A copy of the approval and conditions can be viewed on the Department of the Environment and Heritage website at www.deh.gov.au/epbc/publicnotices/index.html
Meander Dam: the Environmental Impact Assessment Process
- The Rivers and Water Supply Commission referred the Meander Dam proposal to the Commonwealth under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) on 6 February 2002 because of issues of national environmental significance.
- In March 2002, the Commonwealth accredited the Tasmanian Government assessment process for the proposal under the EPBC Act Bilateral Agreement.
- The Tasmanian Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment sent a copy of the Assessment Report on 25 October 2002. Receipt of the assessment report triggered the start of the Commonwealth approval process.
- In November and December the Commonwealth requested further information on impacts to listed threatened species and economic viability: those requests "stopped the approval clock" until the information was received.
- On 22 January 2003 the Resource Management and Planning Tribunal overturned the approval decision of the Tasmanian Government after appeals from the Tasmanian Conservation Trust and others. The Tribunal determined that "Upon the present state of the evidence the Tribunal is satisfied that the certain further likely environmental harm arising from construction of and the existence of the dam, clearly outweigh the less certain benefits".
- The Tasmanian Government subsequently passed special legislation to over-ride the Tribunal's decision relative to the Tasmanian decision. It had no impact on the need for the Commonwealth decision under the EPBC Act.
- Following the Tribunal decision, the Secretary of the Federal Department of Environment and Heritage informed Tasmanian officials that the issues raised by the Tribunal and the information requested earlier by the Commonwealth needed to be dealt with in a substantive manner.
- The Department of Environment and Heritage consulted with the Tasmanian officials on a regular basis to ensure the veracity of additional information that was being collected.
- For example, the Department of Environment and Heritage engaged ACIL Tasman (consultants with expert standing from the National Competition Council) to provide independent economic advice on the economic viability of the proposal to ensure the project met COAG water reform requirements.
- The Commonwealth required Tasmania to engage another independent consultant with expert standing from the National Competition Council - Marsden Jacob and Associates - to provide independent economic advice in relation to the Tasmanian Government economic analysis.
- In May 2003 ACIL Tasman and an officer from the Department of Environment and Heritage visited stakeholders in Tasmania, to listen to the concerns of both supporters and opponents to the Meander Dam.
- Over the period the Minister received representations from the Tasmanian Conservation Trust and representatives of the Meander Valley to understand the views of the different stakeholders.
- The Rivers and Water Supply Commission collated the required information and the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr Kemp, insisted that, before that information was submitted, it should be made available for public review for 2 weeks.
- At the conclusion of the 2 week period the Rivers and Water Supply Commission gave the Department of Environment and Heritage the substantial new information.
- Parties, including the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, were also provided with copies of the ACIL Tasman reports.
- The TCT and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) were provided the opportunity to present their views on the economic and environmental issues having had access to all the new information.
- The Minister fully considered all the information and advice provided by the TCT and WWF before making his decision.
- The Minister reviewed the substantial new information, and informed the relevant Commonwealth Ministers (the Treasurer and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) of his draft decision, as required by the EPBC Act.
- After he received comments from the Ministers Dr Kemp then made his decision on 18 September 2003 to approve the Meander Dam.