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Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Page: 22


Senator FAULKNER (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (3:03 PM) —Senator Macdonald yesterday asked me in my role deputising for the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts a question about an alleged breach of the EPBC Act approval conditions for Paradise Dam on the Burnett River in Queensland relating to the lungfish, and about alleged similar environmental problems with the proposed Traveston dam. I seek leave to incorporate the answer in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—

Paradise Dam, Traveston Dam and Lungfish

Yesterday Senator McDonald asked me (representing the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts) about alleged breach of the EPBC Act approval conditions for Paradise Dam on the Burnett River, Queensland relating to the lungfish and about alleged similar environmental problems with the proposed Traveston dam.

  • The government takes the lessons learnt from Paradise Dam very seriously and will take this into account in assessing future projects, including the proposed Traveston Dam.
  • The Paradise Dam matter is the subject of Federal Court proceedings between the Wide Bay Conservation Council and the dam operator (Burnett Water). It is of course not appropriate to comment on those proceedings but I can provide some general information on the issue.
  • Paradise Dam was approved by the previous government. The extreme drought and low water levels that are the reality today were not envisaged when the dam was built. As a result, the fishway was not designed to operate at low water levels.
  • The Minister remains concerned about the impacts of the non-operation of the downstream fishway on lungfish populations and has requested that his department work with the dam operators to resolve this matter and ensure protection of the lungfish.
  • Retrofitting the dam may be one of several possible solutions. While the Minister has not ruled out court action, this may not achieve the best outcome for the lungfish.
  • In relation to the proposed Traveston. Crossing Dam, the Queensland Government is yet to finalise the Assessment Report and have not yet approved the dam under state legislation.
  • Once Minister Garrett receives the assessment report he will make a decision on whether or not to approve the darn based on the best available science, including a number of independent expert reports, and consistent with his responsibilities under the EPBC Act.