Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Green tape’s good; Part 3A was a disaster, remember?

“Government plans to cut green tape would be counterproductive, and see businesses make costly blunders. And COAGs’ Taskforce on environmental deregulation is a monumental mistake,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“The Emirates Wolgan Valley resort is held up by the right, including Mr Andrew Bolt, as an example of why Australia needs to cut green tape. Well actually, no Mr Bolt, it’s an example of what happens when you cut green tape, as this resort was the first approved under NSW’s notorious Part 3A planning law,” Mr Muir said.

“Due to a poor environmental assessment the resort was initially proposed around a 1820’s homestead. This was unacceptable to heritage experts and the Emirates who were keen to restore this homestead to its former glory as a remarkable feature for their eco-resort”, said Mr Muir.

“A variation proposal for the approved Part 3A development, relocated the entire resort onto Wollemi National Park! This environmental assessment was also weak. The resort property covers half the Wolgan Valley (1000 hectares) but for some reason a suitable development site couldn’t be found. Instead, the Emirates’ consultants found a site on the neighbouring World Heritage listed national park,” he said.

“Of course the Federal Government then required a much better environmental assessment for the World Heritage property. A process for resolving land ownership issues was developed and sense made of an entirely avoidable situation”, Mr Muir said. 

“To the Emirates dismay, the Wolgan River that flows through the resort then turned a bright orange due to a metal precipitate in the effluent discharged from a coal mine upstream (see below). This effluent was quickly diverted into the Mt Piper power plant nearby, again without an adequate environmental assessment”, he said.

“A short time later the condensers at the plant required $35 million in repairs. Only then did the mine’s effluent water receive the necessary treatment after expensive retrofitted plant was installed, Mr Muir said.

“Cutting green tape for the Emirates resort cost the Emirates, Centennial Coal and Delta Electricity tens of millions of dollars. These perverse outcomes from cutting green tape offer a salutary lesson to those in a hurry to exploit resources,” he said.

Australia needs strong environmental laws and we certainly need our Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, to be able to stop the damage when our national heritage is threatened by bad development or bad decision making,’ said Mr Muir.

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (mob)