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Notice given 16 November 2012

2552  Senator Waters: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities—With reference to the conditions of approval No. 2001/422, granted under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) for the Paradise Dam on the Burnett River in Queensland, which requires the dam operator to install a fish transfer device that is suitable for the Australian Lungfish, listed as vulnerable to extinction under the EPBC Act:

(1) Is the department aware of the Paradise Dam Upstream Fishway Monitoring Final Report June 2011 and the Paradise Dam Downstream Fishway Monitoring Program Final v.1.1 Report February 2012 , written by Fisheries Queensland for Burnett Water Pty Ltd and recently published by SunWater Ltd, which show that: (a) no lungfish, or negligible numbers of lungfish, are using the downstream fishway installed on the dam to move downstream; (b) large numbers of lungfish are being killed or severely injured on the stepped spillway of the dam when attempting to move downstream during flood events; and (c) the cumulative effect of mortalities from passing over the stepped spillway is likely to have a major impact on fish populations in the Burnett River over the longer term, including the lungfish.

(2) Does the department agree that the Burnett River lungfish population has low genetic diversity and, therefore, that maintaining connectivity within the breeding population is important for its conservation.

(3) Given that Neranjala Fernando, a witness for SunWater Ltd, testified in court that pre-dam water flowed past the dam site 95 per cent of the time, what level of operation of the fishways does the department believe is necessary to ensure sufficient connectivity in the river and sufficient movement of lungfish.

(4) Is the department aware that the Paradise Dam upstream fishway and downstream fishway have been operated by SunWater Ltd for less than 30 per cent of the time since the dam commenced operation in December 2005, including no operation from January to December 2011 through to October 2012.

(5) Is it correct that both the upstream and downstream fishways are currently broken and will not be repaired until mid-2013.

(6) Does the department agree that the condition imposed on the dam operator, to install a fish transfer device that is suitable for the lungfish, has not been satisfied.

(7) During periods in which the upstream and downstream fishways have been operating, what percentage of lungfish is estimated to be using the fishways.

(8) Does the department believe the fishways are operating efficiently enough to ensure the survival of the lungfish in the Burnett River.

(9) What level of mortality is estimated to have occurred as a result of the non-operation of the fishways.

(10) Can a list be provided identifying all documents produced by the department in response to the Paradise Dam Upstream Fishway Monitoring Final Report June 2011 and the Paradise Dam Downstream Fishway Monitoring Program Final v.1.1 Report February 2012 .

(11) Can a list be provided identifying all steps taken by the department in response to the: (a) lack of operational time of the fishways; and (b) lack of effectiveness of the fishways.

(12) Given that the above reports indicate that large numbers of adult lungfish are being killed on the stepped spillway of the dam, does the department agree that the current design of the spillway is responsible for high levels of mortality of lungfish; if so, what actions or recommendations have been made by the department to rectify the design flaws; if not, what actions or recommendations have been made by the department to reduce the levels of lungfish mortality resulting from the spillway.

(13) Does the department agree that the levels of spillway mortality represent a significant threat to the continued health and viability of the species in the Burnett River.

(14) Does the department agree that the findings of the reports satisfy the criteria of section 143(1)(bc) of the EPBC Act, in particular, that the impact of the Paradise Dam on lungfish is substantially greater than the impact that was identified in assessing the action.

(15) Has the department considered or recommended that the Minister exercise his powers under section 143 of the EBPC Act to vary the conditions of the approval of the Paradise Dam, or to take any other action in relation to this matter; if so, can a description of the recommendations or considerations be provided; if not, why has the department not recommended: (a) the conversion of the stepped spillway into a smooth spillway and installation of a small weir downstream of the spillway to create a pool at the base; (b) that the downstream fishway be operational whenever water levels in the dam reservoir are above elevation (EL) 62m; (c) that the upstream fishway be operational for at least 95 per cent of each year; and (d) an ongoing monitoring program of the lungfish population in the Burnett River to assess any decline in the population during the remaining period of EPBC Act approval, to 1 January 2052.

(16) Can a list be provided identifying any other measures recommended by the department in relation the SunWater Ltd reports.

(17) Has the department considered the closure and dismantling of Paradise Dam in light of its impact on lungfish.