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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 187


Senator Siewert asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, upon notice, on 17 November 2008:

(1)   Why was there no reference in the Minister’s media statement on 16 October 2008, ‘Tough measures placed on Tiwi plantations’, to the name of the company that legally owns and operates the Tiwi plantation project and which is being penalised for serious environmental breaches on the Tiwi Islands.

(2)   Is the Minister aware that on the Great Southern Limited’s website it states that Great Southern Managers Australia Limited, a corporate entity of Great Southern Limited, is the ‘Responsible Entity and Plantation Manager’ on the Tiwi Islands.

(3)   In the Minister’s amended environmental conditions placed on the Tiwi plantation project, dated 13 October 2008, the ‘Person to whom the approval is granted’ is named as Sylvatech Limited: is this the legal entity responsible for carrying out the project and abiding by its conditions.

(4)   In the course of the past 2 years of investigations into these environmental breaches, did the Minister or any departmental officials ever meet with any persons who presented themselves as representatives or employees of Sylvatech Limited; if so, whom and on what dates.

(5)   If Great Southern Limited is the responsible legal entity, and given that the Government has not named Great Southern Limited as the legally-responsible entity for the purposes of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 approval conditions: will the Minister order an immediate change to the relevant documents; if not, why not.

(6)   In regard to the remediation plan which is now required from Great Southern Limited to address the ecological damage it has caused on the Tiwi Islands: who will be preparing that plan and will it be released for public comment prior to the Minister’s approval.


Senator Wong (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   The media statement of 16 October 2008 states that the forestry project is a joint initiative of ‘Sylvatech and the Tiwi Land Council’.

(2)   The approval was issued to the Australian Plantation Group Pty Limited and Tiwi Land Council in 2001 pursuant to section 133 of the Environment protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The Australian Plantation Group Pty Limited was later acquired by Great Southern Limited. The Australian Plantation Group Pty Ltd underwent a name change to Sylvatech Limited (ABN unchanged) and, as such, the approval variation was issued to Sylvatech Limited.

(3)   Sylvatech Limited is the legal entity responsible for carrying out the project and abiding by the conditions of approval pursuant to the EPBC Act.

(4)   Meetings between Departmental officers and employees or representatives of Sylvatech Limited and Great Southern Limited occurred on 12 June 2007, 16 October 2007, 16 April 2008, 22 May 2008 and 21 August 2008. Parties present variously included officers from the Department’s Compliance and Enforcement Branch, lawyers from the Australian Government Solicitor acting on behalf of the Department, the Executive Director of Great Southern Limited, Legal Counsel for Great Southern Limited, lawyers from Freehills acting on behalf of Great Southern Limited and Sylvatech Limited, and employees and consultants representing Sylvatech Limited.

(5)   As Sylvatech Limited is the responsible legal entity, there is no requirement for a change to the documents relating to the conditions of approval (see above).

(6)   CSIRO have been engaged by Sylvatech Limited to prepare the remediation plan required as part of the conditions of approval. There is no requirement under the conditions of approval for this plan to be released for public comment prior to the Minister’s consideration.