Garrett missed opportunity to protect Paroo River
HSI was appalled to learn the Queensland Government reneged on an agreement to preserve the Paroo as one of the last free flowing rivers in the Murray Darling Basin having allowed nine dams that capture 10,000 megalitres of water to be built at Eulo.
In light of this travesty, it is extremely regrettable that Federal Minister for Environment, Peter Garrett, knocked back an opportunity to take responsibility for protecting the entire river catchment when he binned HSI’s nomination to list the Paroo as National Heritage earlier this year.
HSI nominated the Paroo River Catchment to be listed as National Heritage under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 because of the river’s natural and cultural heritage values as the Murray Darling Basin’s remaining wild river.
“A National Heritage listing for the Paroo River Catchment would give the federal Environment Minister power to approve or veto any development that could have a significant impact on its heritage values”, said Nicola Beynon HSI Senior Program Manager.
Under amendments to the EPBC Act brought in by the Coalition Government in 2006, the Federal Environment Minister, taking advice from the Australian Heritage Council, gets to choose which of the public nominations he receives each year he considers to be a priority for the Council to assess for listings. Nominations that do not make it on to the Minister’s highly discretionary priority list for two consecutive years are effectively rejected before the Council properly considers them. In May 2008 HSI was informed that Minister Garrett did not deny the Paroo River may have National Heritage values but for the second year running it was deemed a low priority for assessment.
HSI will be re-submitting our nomination for the Paroo to be listed as National Heritage and this time we ask the Minister to send it to the top of the Australian Heritage Council’s priority list for urgent assessment. The Federal Government should also insist the dams at Eulo be removed.
“That the federal Government needs to take responsibility for the river’s protection has been made abundantly clear by the actions of the Queensland Government”, said Ms Beynon.