Auditor-General releases damning report on environmental regulation
April 02, 2014 The Lock the Gate Alliance has welcomed the release by the
Queensland Audit Office into the Environmental Regulation of the Resource and
Waste Industries as the first ray of light shone on the topic in two decades.
Lock the Gate Alliance president, Drew Hutton, said this was a damning report
that reinforced everything he had been saying about the regulation of mining and
environmental compliance generally in this state for the last 20 years.
Mr Hutton, the author of the recently-published Mining - the Queensland Way,
made a complaint to the Criminal Justice Commission in 1992 which led to the
Matthews Inquiry 1993-94 about illegal waste dumping. This inquiry looked at the
environmental regulation of mining and came up with very similar conclusions to
those in this report, namely:
◾Almost total reliance on companies for data and no analysis of this data by the
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) as well as this data
being "unreliable, inaccessible and often incapable of providing timely and
quality information to inform decisions."
◾Little or no proactive inspections and no clear reports of non-compliance.
Inspections are almost entirely complaint-driven rather than proactive.
◾No progressive rehabilitation of mine sites, no inspection of "rehabilitated"
sites by EHP and widespread avoidance of doing rehabilitation at all.
◾Financial assurances which go nowhere near covering rehabilitation costs with
no clear criteria for assessing these.
"This report essentially says that the system of environmental regulation in
Queensland is one where the companies regulate themselves. The Government
authorities depend on these companies to monitor their own activities, put their
hands up if they have committed a breach and rehabilitating the land they have
contaminated," Mr Hutton said.
"There are hundreds of thousands of hectares in Queensland contaminated by
mining, much of which will never be rehabilitated and the gap between the costs
of rehabilitation and financial assurances held by government is huge and likely
to result in a public liability of billions of dollars.
Mr Hutton said the Auditor-General's report also did not mention a couple of
other serious deficiencies in the system of environmental regulation.
◾The government has no one left in the Contaminated Land Unit of EHP with any
expertise. It is simply a desk with a telephone.
◾The State of Environment Report which has to be done every four years has not
had any figures on land disturbed by mining since 2006.
"What the Newman government calls 'cutting green tape' will simply make this
situation worse by shortening the time span for considering the impacts of
projects before they are approved and reducing even further the resources of the
regulator,” Mr Hutton said.
"There has been no improvement in the regulation of high-impact industries in
Queensland in 20 years. In fact, we have probably gone backwards because the
mining boom has greatly expanded the area potentially contaminated by these
full report here:
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