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Transcript
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

Interview - ABC Stateline
Friday, 19 September 2003

Subject: Decision on Meander Dam


Compere: First to the Meander Dam project which got the nod from the Federal Government late this afternoon. The Federal Environment Minister, David Kemp, made the announcement in Launceston. Afterwards he spoke to ABC news political reporter Andrew Probyn.

Reporter: Minister, the Meander Dam's been on the drawing board since the 1960s, are you convinced that the economic and environmental elements of this project stand up?

Dr Kemp: Yes, we've now had a very thorough examination done of the economics of the dam, it's involved the federal treasury and the National Competition Council. The National Competition Council now believes we've got a very robust economic assessment which shows there are real economic benefits from it and the conditions I've imposed on the approval mean that the environmental objectives, that is the preservation of the threatened species, the spotted tail quoll and the pacris exerter, are guaranteed for the future.

Reporter: Those conditions are you claim most stringent, can you tell us how stringent they are and what form they take?

Dr Kemp: Yes, the conditions are very very stringent. They require the Tasmanian Government to ensure that there is a plan to protect both the quoll and the pacris exerter, that plan has got to be approved by me before construction of the dam can actually commence. If I'm convinced at any stage that the plan is not working out as originally thought I can require additional action to be taken to ensure that the two threatened species are properly protected and then there will be independent auditing of the implementation over time and that independent auditing will have to be approved by me again.

Reporter: As part of your approval you've assured the Tasmanian Government takes full legal responsibility for the dam, why is that and what does that mean?

Dr Kemp: The reason for that is that the proponent for the dam wouldn't be in a position to ensure that all the conditions would be implemented. The only body with authority to apply all the conditions is the Tasmanian Government and it seemed quite appropriate therefore to transfer the approval to the Tasmanian Government.

Reporter: There's been quite a barney down in Tasmania as to the economic virtues of the project, some say it's going to be worth $27 million, some say twenty, what do you think is going to be the economic value of this project?

Dr Kemp: Well, it seems to be closer to twenty but I'm not sure how significant that particular point is. I mean it's quite clear that the project is going to create a number of jobs in the short term and is going to create very significant social and economic as well as environmental benefits in the longer term.

Reporter: If the Tasmanian Government does fail in some of the controls that you've put on the project, what would this mean legally?

Dr Kemp: Well, they will be required to observe the conditions and these can be legally enforced under the environment protection legislation but I'm quite confident that the Tasmanian Government will recognise that these conditions are the appropriate conditions. We've talked very closely with them about these conditions, they have put their own offers on the table as it were and we've taken those into account so I believe we've got a very cooperative approach to this and all those in the community who are concerned with the environment will be very happy with the outcome.

Reporter: The Tasmanian Conservation Trust says that it still has some problems with the project and it's envisaging taking some legal action, what could they challenge?

Dr Kemp: Well, I hope that they won't take legal action. Their views have been very well expressed in this process and I must say I'm grateful to them. The conditions that I've imposed reflect many of the viewpoints that they put. We've imposed strict restrictions to legally protect the approval and I believe that the approval would stand up in court but look, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust has got to consider its own position but let me just say I think they played a very constructive role in this process in pointing to the need for very strong environmental protections and those strong protections are now in place.

Reporter: So you think the project is going to be a boon for the north of Tasmania?

Dr Kemp: I've no doubt about that, I think this is going to be a very positive project, it's a win-win project for the environment and for the communities of northern Tasmania and more than that, it's going to, I think, change peoples frame of mind about what development is possible. We can have ecologically sustainable development that's what this decision means. We can have a better environment and we can have improved standards of living and improved opportunities for enterprises at the same time.

Reporter: Minister, thank you very much.

Dr Kemp: hank you very much Andrew.

ENDS...

Commonwealth of Australia