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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

16 November 2005

Federal environment law does not apply to Sydney desalination plant


An examination of the NSW Governmentís proposed desalination plant at Kurnell had shown that federal environment law would not apply to the proposal, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said today.

"An analysis of the proposed desalination plant shows that the Australian Government does not have jurisdiction over this project," Senator Campbell said.

"This means the NSW Government will be solely responsible for ensuring that any environmental impacts are given close and proper scrutiny," Senator Campbell said.

The proposed desalination plant was referred by the NSW Government under the Australian Governmentís Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in late September to determine whether Commonwealth legislation would apply.

The EPBC Act provides for the protection of certain defined matters of national environmental significance (NES). The matters of NES include world and national heritage properties, wetlands of international importance, migratory species, nationally threatened species and ecological communities, nuclear actions, and the Commonwealth area.

Development proposals that are likely to have a significant impact on these matters must be assessed and approved by the Australian Government under the EPBC Act. The EPBC Act cannot apply to those development proposals which are not likely to have a significant impact on these matters.

Public comment on the proposal was invited for a month to help the Australian Department of the Environment and Heritage provide its advice. Over 1,400 submissions were received.

The public comment was considered, together with detailed analysis of the proposal, and it was determined that federal law does not apply.

The analysis showed that matters of NES such as threatened species (including the Green and Golden Bell Frog), the Kurnell Peninsula National Heritage area, the Towra Point wetland and the marine area off the Peninsula would not be significantly threatened by the proposal.

"I am sure the people of Kurnell will be determined to know that this proposal, if it proceeds, will be built to the highest environmental standards," Senator Campbell said.

"As Federal Environment Minister, I would expect nothing less than a thorough and comprehensive assessment by the NSW Government, including full public consultation, before any construction begins."

Media contacts:
Renae Stoikos (Senator Campbellís office) 02 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434

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