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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

4QY ABC Far North Queensland
Friday, 11 March, 2005

Relocation of the Kareeya to Innisfail powerline

Pat Morrish - presenter:
Let's just go back and recap on something we were talking about during our first hour, and I spoke to a most unhappy Susan McCullough (ph.sp.), secretary of the Power to the People Action Group.

Now, this group has been hoping to convince government to leave the Kareeya to Innisfail powerline the high-voltage powerline where it was. It now passes through what is now World Heritage rainforest.

However, the Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell has given the nod to the plan. He has supported the route favoured by the Queensland Government.

Why did he go along with what they wanted the government wanted rather than what the local residents wanted? I had a chat to him whilst a fish (ph.sp.) talk was going to air.

Ian Campbell - Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage:
Because it matches the requirements of the environment protection law of the Commonwealth. It's the route that the Queensland Government put forward for evaluation. We went back to them and said, what about the other route? And they said, no, under no circumstances.

So the department has looked at the environmental impacts and given it a standard approval.

Tell me a little bit more about this environmental protection law that was such a guideline.

Well, basically, the proposal has to ensure that the key elements such as threatened species and other biodiversity issues are considered under the law; the proposal as put forward and the assessment done have met the tests. There are some conditions are placed on it that is to involve further community consultation as to the exact route and size of the easement or the reservation of land for it.

So I'm requiring more consultation on that, that's one of the conditions. However, there are some people in the community who have said, no, the line should have gone down the existing route, they should have just replaced the existing line.

The Queensland Government and Powerlink have made it quite clear that under no circumstances would they be considering that. So the Commonwealth really isn't in a position to choose routes, it's basically in a in the position that it needs to make a proper assessment of the environmental aspects of the proposal that Powerlink and Queensland Government have sought approval for. We've done that and it complies with the Commonwealth law and it's received my approval on that basis.

Well, you said, some people, but a good many people, I would believe, have opposed this. I mean, they've regarded the public consultation process as an insultation [sic]; they've objected on a number of grounds. They say it was never costed properly and it's a blight on the tourism industry having, you know, these huge towers in a tourist area and that it does pass through sensitive environmental habitat.

Well, we have to look at the environmental habitat issues. My department have assured me that the proposal meets all of the Commonwealth requirements.

In terms of the controversy over the route that it takes, either the coastal or inland route, that is entirely a matter for the Queensland Government; the Commonwealth can't be in the business of saying, choose that route or that route. The Queensland Government have said under no circumstances will they replace the line through the inland route, through the wet tropics. They have said that is for environmental reasons and it's not for the Commonwealth to second guess those things.

We've had a proposal put before us, we've had a look to see how it impacts on the Commonwealth environmental issues and my department have advised me that it complies.

Would it concern you, though, that a spokesperson for Power to the People Action Group the secretary has told us this morning that you, as the minister who would be doing the approval or holding back, that you were not given all the information you needed from Powerlink to make a full and fair assessment?

Oh, well, look, if that is the case that would be of concern. But my department assures me that's not the case. If there are any matters that Power for the People think that I haven't received, then my decisions and the reasons for it will be placed on the Internet - I think they're up there already but I have insisted on further consultation on the easement.

I've listened closely to the Power of the People, but their fight is really with the Queensland Government as in relation to the route and they do know that. I've got enormous respect for those people in that organisation, but we cannot, from Canberra, dictate where the Queensland Government builds a powerline. If they tell us under no circumstances are they going to build it (indistinct), could you please consider this proposal, we can't say, sorry, we want to look at another proposal.


And I think they do respect that.

So when will it start?

That's a matter for Powerlink, but they won't be able to start until they've obviously met the conditions.

So from the people's point of view can I just clarify that? Are there any lines of appeal open for them, those who are opposing it?

I'd have to get legal advice on that and I'm not I don't want to give legal advice over the radio (laughs) on the run. But they will be able to look at the statement of reasons I've made on the being published today. I have enormous sympathy for their cause, but when I'm faced with the Queensland Government that have said, this is where it's going to go, I'm not in a position to direct it otherwise. I've got to make an assessment based on all of the information given to our department. The department advised me on that assessment and they'd advised that with the conditions I've attached that it's appropriate to approve it.

Senator Ian Campbell, the Federal Minister for Environment and Heritage, who spoke to me about half an hour ago.

Commonwealth of Australia