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Queensland declares coastline disaster -

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Queensland declares coastline disaster

The World Today - Friday, 13 March , 2009 12:10:00

Reporter: Annie Guest

TANYA NOLAN: To the unfolding environmental disaster on the Queensland coast.

Authorities are warning as much as 100,000 litres of heavy fuel oil is covering 60 kilometres of
the state's coastline from Moreton Island in the south and further north to the Sunshine Coast.

The source of the spill is the foreign registered vessel the Pacific Adventurer which was damaged
in heavy seas caused by Cyclone Hamish.

The affected areas have been declared disaster zones and a clean-up is underway.

Queensland reporter Annie Guest joins us on the line from Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast.

Annie, how much of the Sunshine Coast is oil affected?

ANNIE GUEST: Tanya, there is a 60-kilometre strip from the southern area across from Brisbane up to
the northern-most area of the Sunshine Coast that is affected and about 30 kilometres itself of the
Sunshine Coast has been affected by this oil spill.

TANYA NOLAN: Have you witnessed the clean-up this morning?

ANNIE GUEST: I have been to about four beaches from early this morning Tanya and I haven't spotted
any signs of the clean-up. However it is underway further south at Kawana Beach and of course at
the worst affected area of Moreton Island where we are told by government authorities that 130
people are now on Moreton Island where more than 10 kilometres of beach has been blackened and they
are using heavy equipment such as bulldozers. And then also there are people that are using light
equipment such as buckets and spades.

TANYA NOLAN: And I understand that you spoke to someone at the Sunshine Coast Regional Council
about the clean-up?

ANNIE GUEST: Yes Tanya. There has been a, the clean-up has been a source of contention. Some have
openly criticised the pace of the clean-up. Others quietly in the Government have said they have
been also concerned in government agencies.

There was a meeting between the government authorities and the Sunshine Coast Regional Council
today and afterwards I spoke to infrastructure spokesman from the council Andrew Ryan and here is a
little of what he had to say.

ANDREW RYAN: It was certainly frustrating yesterday afternoon to sit there and try and understand
what the reason was. We had direction; we were working with the EPA to make sure we weren't going
to go into environmentally sensitive areas where there were turtles' nests so I thought the process
was working okay but I...

ANNIE GUEST: So what happened then?

ANDREW RYAN: Well as I understand there is a philosophical protocol - I shouldn't say
philosophical. There is a protocol I understand that MSQ have that...

ANNIE GUEST: That's Maritime Safety Queensland.

ANDREW RYAN: I understand they prefer clean-up with a, using manual labour. Obviously it's less
potentially damaging on the environment.

ANNIE GUEST: And what concerns does the council have about using those buckets and spades etc?

ANDREW RYAN: Eighteen kilometres of coastline. It's quite straightforward. And I guess what we saw
with the gear we had is I think we did a fairly effective job in a fairly rapid manner.

TANYA NOLAN: And that was Andrew Ryan who is the executive director of infrastructure services at
the Sunshine Coast Regional Council.

Well Annie, the Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg and the Greens leader Bob Brown have been the
most vociferous critics of the clean-up. Has there been much response to that criticism?

ANNIE GUEST: Well certainly the Premier and other Government ministers have defended their response
and we will hear a little more of that later in the program but they have also been backed by Simon
Baltais from the Queensland Conservation Council.

SIMON BALTAIS: Their response has been very timely. They are very well respected across the
country. They have done this stuff before.

I think people need to understand this is dangerous stuff they are dealing with. You just don't go
out there with a backhoe, stick it in a truck and take it down to your local dump. It's toxic. It's
registered as carcinogenic. You have to wear the appropriate gear. You have to wear respirator
equipment when you are out dealing with this stuff.

It is a logistical nightmare and my staff who were working last night and half the marine park
staff were there last night and the other half are still out in the field and most of these people
have got their families on hold where they're trying to, they are just as passionate about fixing
up this problem as much as we like to see it done.

TANYA NOLAN: Simon Baltais from the Queensland Conservation Council.

Anne, have you spoken to many locals this morning and what have they had to say?

ANNIE GUEST: Yes Tanya, I have spoken to several locals and their response is varied. Some are
critical that more hasn't been done to clean up some of the less affected areas and others are more
sympathetic and say that these things take time. But one man I spoke to a short time ago at
Mooloolaba, Ole Hebert said the whole thing could have been avoided.

OLE HEBERT: I think it is pretty unnecessary. I mean the cyclone has been predicted for you know,
has been going on for a whole week and this was the area that was right at the centre of the storm.
It was hovering just outside Hervey Bay. And this tanker captain decided to go out, you know.

ANNIE GUEST: Are you angry about it?

OLE HEBERT: Yeah. I guess you have got to get angry if you know, things are unnecessary. There is
enough pollution without, I mean it's a pretty major spill.

TANYA NOLAN: Sunshine coast local Ole Hebert and our reporter Annie Guest on the line from
Mooloolaba.