Secret EPA dredging advice must be released now

Dumping 1.55 million cubic metres of dredge spoil from Outer Harbour into the middle of Gulf St Vincent risks massive environmental harm, yet the EPA’s crucial advice on the matter is being kept secret according to Mark Parnell MLC,  Greens SA Parliamentary Leader.

“It is outrageous that one of the most important and influential pieces of advice, paid for by the public, won’t be released prior to the assessment of this massive $50 million dredging project. 

“The EPA won’t release its advice until after the planning assessment and the planning authority won’t release it until after the Minister has made a final decision.  This secrecy makes a mockery of both the independence of the EPA and the State Planning Commission’s commitment to openness and accountability”, said Mr Parnell.

Flinders Ports have applied to widen the existing shipping channel to accommodate larger vessels.  The Development Application is listed to be heard by the State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) this Thursday.  A number of conservation and community groups are scheduled to appear, yet they won’t have the benefit of the EPA’s advice prior to the hearing.  The application is apparently so secret that it doesn’t even appear on the published SCAP agenda for Thursday’s hearing.  A security guard on the door will prevent anyone attending the meeting who has not been invited.

“Fishing and conservation groups are rightly concerned that the disastrous dredging operations of 2005, (which saw destruction of seagrass beds and loss of critical fish habitat), will be repeated.”

“Under State law, the EPA advice (which was made back in November 2017) can be released in full to enable the community to weigh up the pros and cons of this massive dredging operation.  Both the EPA and SCAP are choosing to keep this information secret.  The Greens want this secrecy to end now.”

“One of the most important assessments from the EPA will be whether the 1.55 million cubic metres of dredged material could be more safely disposed of on dry land rather than being dumped in the middle of the Gulf.”

“The Greens have written to both the EPA and the State Planning Commission, urging them to put the public interest and community right to know, ahead of unnecessary secrecy, concluded Mark Parnell MLC.