Rivers SOS Opposes Culling of Water Experts

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Rivers SOS Opposes Culling of Water Experts

Postby HVPA_research » Wed Jun 13, 2012 2:38 pm

Link to this page: http://t.co/edzIiYe1

* Archived Media Release from Rivers SOS (http://riverssos.org.au/) *

It is very hard to imagine worse time to cut down on the number of the government environmental field inspectors. Both the coal and gas are in the phase of uncontrolled boom and they are SELF-REGULATING! Any bets on the future outcome?

Rivers SOS Opposes Culling of Water Experts 13 June 2012

The Rivers SOS Alliance objects to the proposed culling of water experts and support staff from the NSW Office of Water (SMH, 11.6.12).

NSW water resources face numerous threats, not least from damage caused by mining and, more recently, the huge expansion of the coal seam gas industry. These are money spinners for a state in financial trouble and we fear that the loss of expert advice to the government on the possible depletion and contamination of the state's water resources will aid the ongoing destruction from thousands of CSG bore wells, as already witnessed in Queensland.

NSW is rapidly catching up to Queensland and we are equally unprepared: we now have over 300 gas wells, and a total of 41 million hectares (nearly half the state) are under petroleum exploration licences and applications.

Rivers SOS has found that the NSW Office of Water, in advising the government, has been able to balance the powerful mining and CSG lobbies to an extent, with warnings about threats to water resources. But possibly the last thing the O'Farrell government wants is experts who may advise caution.

We must add that the Office is not anti-mining, as we found when, for example, they published a report in 2011 on the drying up of the Thirlmere Lakes, specifically exonerating nearby coal mining, although the jury is out on this. (Other mining experts believe that mining has altered the groundwater regime which once fed the lakes).

So although Rivers SOS does not always agree with the Office of Water, we strongly object to the sacking of at least 50 staff at a time when many more are needed to monitor water use and contamination, as CSG and mining expand.

The NSW Office of Water is already notoriously understaffed. In the NSW Legislative Council Inquiry's report into coal seam gas (May 2012), the NSW Ombudsman is quoted: "... we understand that there are fewer than 20 inspectors in the Office of Water who perform compliance or enforcement functions in relation to the use of water across the state. Given the breadth of responsibilities and the geographical spread of water related matters across NSW, it is difficult to see this as adequate for ensuring appropriately robust compliance and enforcement." ( p. 209)

The NSW Farmers Association also recommends that the NSW Government should "... immediately increase the number of monitoring and enforcement officers to enable more timely responses to reported breaches of licence conditions." (p.216)

Many participants in the Inquiry drew attention to the inadequacy of monitoring and enforcement activities, and the failure of the complaints system. The regulation of the CSG industry is seen as inadequate; even an industry representative from Santos said that: " ... government will need to invest in additional resources to ensure that the regulations in place are adhered to." (p. 213)

The NSW Government, in the face of much criticism, has recently made some legislative amendments re environmental protection, such as requiring immediate notification of any pollution incidents, and increased fines.
But without sufficient officers to monitor an expanding industry, in some cases run by cowboys, the sacking of officers at this time shows a reckless lack of concern about the future of the state's water resources.

Caroline Graham, Vice President, Rivers SOS Alliance
Julie Sheppard, Secretary, Rivers SOS Alliance,

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