Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s proposed decision to reject the Traveston dam project on Mary River may save some of Australia’s threatened species, writes Stephanie Kok.
A landmark decision was made today by Environment Minister Peter Garrett, when he made a proposed decision to reject the Queensland Government’s Traveston Crossing dam project.
The project to dam the Mary River at Traveston Crossing was initially announced by former Queensland premier Peter Beattie in 2006. Prior to this, the site had been investigated and been rejected twice. It has been fraught with controversy, with Queensland premier Anna Bligh stating that the project had been given a green light by the State Government back in September, when in fact it still faced over 1,200 conditions, and a lengthy process.
Mr Garrett says his decision was based on the social, economic and serious environmental impacts that the dam will have on threatened species in the area, such as the Australian lungfish, Mary River cod, Mary River turtle and southern barred frog, as well as listed migratory species including migratory shorebirds, the green turtle and the dugong.
“It is clear to me that the Traveston Dam cannot go ahead without unacceptable impacts on matters of national environmental significance,” he said today.
According to the campaign website of the Save TheMaryRiver group, latest poll figures show that in the federal Wide Bay electorate, 88% are opposed to the project.
The dam was to be constructed 27 kilometres upstream of Gympie and consisted of two stages, the first of which involved the construction and operation of a new 153,000 megalitre dam on the Mary River at Traveston Crossing to deliver up to 70,000 megalitres per year.
Professor Angela Arthington, Professor of Freshwater Ecology at the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University applauds Mr Garrett and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
“The decision not to build the Traveston Crossing Dam in Queensland is of national and global significance. It demonstrates the Australian Government’s strong commitment to protection of endangered species such as the lungfish and the Mary River cod and turtle, and biodiversity in general. Concerned scientists and conservation ecologists around the world will rejoice today, and applaud Australia for the power of the EPBC Act,” she said.
But Andrew Macintosh, Associate Director of the Australian National University Centre for Climate Law and Policy, says that the minister and the EPBC Act still have a long way to go.
“While the decision is significant, it should be put in perspective. Over 3,000 projects have been referred under the EPBC Act since 2000. Of these, only 15 (16 with Traveston) have been refused, the majority of which have occurred under Garrett’s tenure as Environment Minister. More important than the number of approvals and refusals is what the legislation has failed to address,” he said.
A proposed decision under the EPBC Act allows the proponent, Queensland Water Infrastructure, and relevant Commonwealth Ministers 10 days to comment on it.
Read more about the EPBC Act in ‘Why the EPBC fails to protect our environment‘.