Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett.
Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett. henningthomsen.files.wordpress.com

Judge rules out lungfish report

CONSERVATIONISTS can’t rely on a report about lungfish to bolster their arguments against the construction of a southeast Queensland dam, a judge has ruled.

The Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council sought to admit the report in the Federal Court in Brisbane Today.

It outlines how state government-owned utility Sunwater failed to provide a fishway suitable for lungfish at Paradise Dam on the Burnett River, 35km northwest of Biggenden.

The report, written by fish biologist Jim Tait, also detailed the migratory habits of the lungfish and how these may be adversely affected by the new dam.

Lawyers representing Sunwater sought to have the report disallowed, claiming Mr Tait was not a lungfish expert.

But the conservationists argued his background in ecology, fish migration and artificial barriers was sufficient to allow him to draw expert conclusions about how the dam would affect the lungfish.

Justice John Logan ruled parts of the “wide ranging” report were technically irrelevant and deficient.

He also ruled it was difficult to distinguish between fact and opinion in the report.


If federal environment minister Peter Garrett rules in favour of the Traveston Crossing Dam, the matter will ultimately be resolved in the courts where the science he used to make that decision will be fully tested.

Save the Mary group spokesman David Kreutz said yesterday he did not know how Mr Garrett could approve the controversial dam given the damning scientific criticism of the proposal.

This morning there was speculation that Mr Garrett would fly to Brisbane tomorrow to announce his decision.

Anna Bligh has told ABC radio regardless of the outcome, her Infrastructure Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe will travel to the Mary Valley to tell residents of what is next in the process.

If the the development is approved, Mr Kreutz said that decision would be challenged in the courts where the advice that informed it would be exposed and tested.

Mr Garrett has announced he will produce a statement of reasons for his decision but has not committed to releasing his department’s full report on the dam.

More than 30,000 letters opposing the dam have been sent to state and federal politicians through the Save the Mary Info Centre alone, with the Greater Mary Association, based in Hervey Bay, responsible for another 100,000 cards being sent to politicians.

Save the Mary coordinating group president Glenda Pickersgill said dam opponents had always been aware they had strong local backing.

“Our support is not only local. The large number of Brisbane addresses on these letters shows the extent to which people in Anna Bligh’s backyard disapprove of this project,” Ms Pickersgill said.

Australian Greens senate leader Bob Brown has also turned up the heat, claiming yesterday that Mr Garrett’s decision would determine whether environmental law was based on party politics.

“If Peter Garrett gives the go-ahead to that dam we might as well tear up the nature and environment laws, they’d mean nothing,” Senator Brown said.

“There’ll be a lot of stress from the farming community as well.

“It would be an indication that party politics means more than a real assessment of the nation’s environmental laws and what they mean.

“The question for Peter Garrett is now one of historical significance.”

Related: Decision time for dam arrives.

Read more about the controversial Traveston dam.

Do you think Peter Garrett will approve the controversial dam? Or are the scientific and environmental criticisms of the proposal too damning? Let us know what you think. Leave your comments below...

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