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3rd Panel Discussion

Jim Colman, Paul Martin, Kathy Ridge

Question: One question you didn’t raise was whether or not the Port expansion is necessary in the first place. When you consider the implications of dredging, and the fact that we have alternatives in the form of Newcastle and Port Kembla, why do we need to do it at all? They’re deep water, we don’t need it, let’s ask that question.

Jim Colman: First of all let me say that I’m not in any position to speak for the Ports Corporation, nor am I speaking with any really clear knowledge about what is currently proposed other than what I’ve read on early handouts. But what I do know is that Australia lacks a Port’s policy and that since the corporatisation of our Ports around the country, they’re being driven by commercial imperatives and are competing against each other. In such a context, I can’t see how the environmental issues which are associated with port development can get to the top of the agenda. Whether Newcastle, or the Hunter or Sydney or Botany Bay succeed as ports seems to depend more on the management agility and dexterity and political muscle of their management corporations than on anything else. And to me it’s a recipe for trouble that we don’t have a policy in this country that can ensure that all issues: commercial, environmental, social and cultural, get looked at when decisions about port expansion are made.

Kathy Ridge: In the original justification proposals that were put out when the Minister announced the expansion, it showed that they were expanding to meet a projected capacity of the port in nine years time and assumed that there were going to be efficiency savings or no growth in the amount of business that was transacted at the other ports. So I think there are some serious issues about the need for the facility.

Comment (Audience Member): I just wanted to add to what Jim just said and say that I know that there are some people in the Botany Bay community, and some Councils in particular, that are talking to their counterparts in Newcastle and certainly the Newcastle community, it seems, is quite receptive to further expansion of their facilities. One of the other things that the Director General’s requirements for the EIS stipulate is that alternatives must be fully explored and the need must also be firmly established.

Question: I thought it was a very telling analysis that you made of the lack of consideration given to low impact users and passive users of waterways. Could you just outline any suggestions that you might have for ways in which consideration of passive and low impact users could be built into policy making in the estuary area.

Paul Martin: There’s actually been an enormous amount of work that was done by the catchment committee previously. One of the elements was to first set out a set of principles based upon what we knew about what the community wanted as priorities. And those principles, if I can remember, included, for example, that whenever there is a risk to an unprotected person, then that risk should be isolated physically from an area where those unprotected persons are likely to be. I’ll take the example that was raised about jetskis as a classic of this because that was one of the ones that was raised. You ask yourself, well “what would it take to be able to leave areas where low impact users would feel comfortable, and not deprive the person who wants to use a jetskis, of a use?”. When you start taking into account the mobility, and the range of environments within which that other user could enjoy their activity, it becomes quite easy to design in, effect, a non-impactful way of combining the maximum number of uses. That’s just one example. The sort of issues that David raised earlier about economically valuing are relevant, because, sadly, we use those kinds of numbers as if they were magic. I know that by economically valuing non-use values and all those sorts of things you can still come up with fairly coherent policies and frameworks that are acceptable. The MOU on navigation dredging is a case in point. It was signed-off by the Motor Yacht Club representing the large boat owners, and by the National Parks Association and others. It was signed-off by everybody, including a number of government agencies so it’s not an impossible task, but you’ve actually got to mean it rather than just be playing around with it, That’s I think where you’ve got to come from.

Question: You made mention of the Estuary Committees and the representation of indigenous people, or the difficulties there. In your way of thinking through the future development of management plans, (i.e. the Port Hacking Management Plan), how would you like to see the process dealt with, particularly in terms of being able to have a representation of people who create least harm to the environment? As you know, one of the difficulties we have with estuary management committees along the coast as they’ve been constituted through councils, is that you’ll find that those who shout loudest and represent an interest, manage to get themselves on these committees through the process of Council appointment. How would constitute a group that could get the best outcomes for the environment through that committee?

Paul Martin: There are two issues. You raised Aboriginal issues first and obviously I can only talk from my point of view as Chair of a committee. I simply believe that if there is nothing real on the table for Aboriginal people to get out of it, there’s no reason why they should participate in the discussion. So we keep saying “how do we get Aboriginals on committees?” I think that is exactly the wrong question. We really should be saying, “how can we give real value to Aboriginals through the way we manage estuaries?” And that’s a different issue. That means things like jobs, it means things like active proprietorial interests in aquaculture, it means doing something real and then you’ll get them on the committees. I don’t think you’ll have any real problem. It will be difficult managing it, but I think that’s an achievable thing, if you want the outcome. How do you get low-impact or non-impact people on committees? Well you start by saying “What are the values that the community has said are important and can we make the make-up of the committee proportionately represent those values?” That would be a pretty good start. You use whatever survey results you’ve got and you say “Well does our committee more or less represent that make-up?”. I think then you’d be a pretty fair way down the track.

Kathy Ridge: I will just mention that indigenous communities have said time and time again, that they need to be resourced adequately to participate. They need to have the time to be able to represent their communities and that means being given a number of proposals and given the time to go back and talk to their communities about which proposals they’re prepared to support before they go in a make a decision. And it’s the same for the conservation community representatives as well. We feel that the sorts of decisions that are expected, given very little data and given very little time to consult adequately with the people you’re representing, puts a lot of the representatives in an untenable position.

Supplimental Question: I thought you might go on to the problem that we’ve confronted whereby groups purporting to represent the conservation movement or low-impact users who are actually high impact users adopt and register the name of environmental or community groups and manage to get themselves appointed to these committees. They even in fact go to the next stage of finding ways to take genuine environmental groups to court for purporting to represent the environmental movement.

Paul Martin: So does that mean that I can adopt the name of the “Sutherland Pro-development anti-environment council” and get on every committee on the earth?

Kathy Ridge: It does happen but we nominate to all the statutory committees via a nomination process with NCC. So the Minister knows when they’re appointing a NCC-nominated person, that they are from one of the member groups which is recognised by the conservation community. The problem with the estuary management committees is that they’re not constituted under legislation so there is no statutory requirement to nominate an NCC representative. So they don’t have the same level of accountability.

Comment (Bruce Thorn): Because the Estuary Management Committees will come under the new Coastal Zone Management Manual, the compositions will be spelt out in that Manual. It will be a gazetted document under the legislation. So that’s what we’re trying to do there.

Question: I would just like to make a comment on some of the points that have been raised about that. Firstly, a lot of the language that we perpetuate ourselves helps to maintain exclusivity. The word ‘stakeholder’ has been bandidied-around here today, and I would issue a note of caution about that term being more exclusive than inclusive. Because quite often if we take low impact usage, and try to identify the stakeholders, we zero in on the people who have the power, or the voice, or the ability to assemble collectively. The picnickers who come to the foreshores who drive in from the other suburbs to picnic don’t have a voice. In the case of kayakers if they have a club, fair enough, but the casual kayakers don’t have a voice. I issue a word of warning about some of the terminology that’s used. The other thing that I think is a big enemy to inclusivity is the current corporate management techniques of state government departments. If we take, for example the Waterway Authority. They see the boating community as their clients. They don’t take a step back from that and say “Well who really are we administering the waterways for? Is it for the community at large or for the next generations” No, they have their clients and that’s where the management initiatives go. And I think it’s outrageous that we have the intellect of people like Paul, sitting around struggling with a cost-benefit analysis about the implications of having jetskis mixed with little children in the water. And all power to Kathy who says, out with the science, we don’t need doctors of economics struggling with issues like that. Out with the science! Commonsense says if you have uncontrolled jetski among children in the water, then you’re going to hurt somebody.

Kathy Ridge: I wasn’t saying throw-out science by the way, I’m actually a scientist by training, but I think we should add-in a few other robust community values to that decision making process. My point was really that it’s very dangerous to rely on science or economics alone.

Question: I’ll just ask Paul to respond to this idea of having one authority in charge of the waterway. I’m actually quite concerned about that. I think it’s something that needs some consideration because it has been suggested that maybe things would be better managed if there was one authority. I guess it depends on which authority that is.

Paul Martin: Dictatorship is a wonderful thing if you’re the dictator and that’s the problem. But we’ve obviously grappled with that issue over a number of years and decided that it would be pretty hard to do it any worse than what we’ve been doing! So if you look at it, you’d say, well let’s try it provided that the framework is based on measurable accountability against the policy. So if you had a single authority and it didn’t have that, then I think you’d have a real problem. But providing you get the measurable accountability, I think we could make real progress.

Jim Colman: I skimmed very quickly over the issue of management in my presentation, but I’m glad to comment in a little more depth. In the case of Botany Bay, we have been running in parallel with a process which has given Sydney Harbour a Minister and for a period of three years, a person filled the position of Sydney Harbour Manager. I think that position was an experiment and as far as I know it is not being continued. But there is a Minister at least who carries responsibility. There is no single Sydney Harbour Authority and I agree with the concerns and the caution about going down that track. But to have a Minister who carries responsibility is a different story and I strongly support that notion. On the idea of a Manager of some kind, one has to look at the experience of Jeremy Dawkins in Sydney Harbour. You’d have to say that he got a few runs on the board. In three years he galvanised the local government and NGO communities around the Harbour. He managed to pull together major agencies so they began to see the Harbour as a resource that required a unified management approach. He publicised the harbour as a system. He established a database, and a website and so on and so on. All of those things were very positive. Botany Bay lacks them all. In looking around to other examples particularly overseas, I don’t know of any where there’s been a new agency or corporate body or authority put in place by central or state government to manage an estuary or bay. Much more likely success stories are where coalitions of NGOs work in partnership with agencies. In the case of the Mersey, a catchment wide campaign was established, funded by all the interested constituent groups both commercial and industrial, as well as scientific and NGOs. That campaign is orchestrated out of a single office in Manchester at the top of the catchment. In the Thames, we find a different story again. Here there’s the Thames Estuary Campaign, and a science forum working together. There are many different formulas, but most of them arise out of voluntary partnerships and agreements and little by little the momentum is established until finally big government sits up and says, “This is important, we’re going to run with it”.

Comment (Bruce Thorn): To me a model that I would very much like the community to think about, particularly in the estuary management process that you’re going through, and because it is one that is working in NSW is the Lake Macquarie Place Manager. Now the Lake Macquarie situation is an interesting one because it evolved as a result of the standard DLWC/local council estuary management planning process. They produced a long list of things to be done to a fairly degraded estuary which has a catchment of about 109,000 people which is probably similar in terms of catchment numbers as Port Hacking. What happened was that the estuary management list was about $40m over 4 years. A Premier’s taskforce was set up, which I had the privilege of being on, to evaluate the recommendations from the estuary management committee. From that Premier’s taskforce we recommended a funding model and management model which has now been is place for three years. DLWC employ a Place Manager who works in Lake Macquarie Council. Around him he has a small team and he is advised by the Regional Managers from DLWC, EPA, Planning NSW, Fisheries, Waterways and Parks, plus some independent people such as Bob Wilson, (ex Sydney Water) and myself. And that group meets very regularly and we have a work plan. We have about $3m per year of State money and $1.3m raised from an environmental levee from Lake Macquarie residents. That has now been renewed for another 3 years with $1.3m of State money matched by $1.3m from the environmental levee. So the Place Manager will have a six year period and the evaluations of course, are ongoing. Now that model does bring together, in one place, a concerted program which really does have that partnership component which the Minister stressed this morning as a working component. We sit down with work plans, and we also have the opportunity to raise extra funds from industry and from the Commonwealth, who have been very supportive of the work in Lake Macquarie. So Lake Macquarie if you like constitutes a model which could be thought through in terms of the future for Port Hacking. We have it working, let’s see about where else in NSW we could possibly make it work.
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