Enough talk: time for proper regulation in the Goldfields

July 2, 2003 - Greens (WA) Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple MLC has asked questions in Parliament concerning the proposed Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community and Industry Reference Committee.

“I have asked the Minister to give an unequivocal assurance that the Minister's office and the Department of the Environment (DoE) will not use this committee as an excuse to avoid investigating serious complaints made by members of the public.

“I am extremely concerned that due to recent adverse media reports concerning the Department of Environment involving Brookdale, Kalgoorlie Cement Works, Wagerup, Bellevue, Total Waste Management in Kalgoorlie, and many others, that the Minister and the DoE has gone about establishing this committee to deflect criticism of the DoE or the Minister's office,' Mr Chapple said.

“I have been involved in committees of a similar nature and have found through my own personal experience that very little if anything is achieved, except the continued frustration with the Department avoiding its obligations and responsibilities, because members of the committee spend an enormous amount of time debating the concerns in house. In reality it requires the DoE to do its job, which is to regulate and enforce environmental legislation, not to set up committees or forums where community members negotiate, debate and argue their concerns with the alleged offenders.'

“Police do not expect victims to negotiate with offenders on how they can proceed with breaches to the criminal code and neither should the DoE expect the same of community members in relation to breaches of the Environmental Protection Act. The Minister has already publicly stated she doesn't want to hear any more about ‘negotiated solutions', so it's about time the Minister practiced what she preached and stopped setting up committees which only serve to dilute constructive criticism. In the case of the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Committee, the so-called community group is actually stacked with industry representatives. I very much support the people with genuine concerns who are trying to work within this framework, but the odds seem to be stacked against them.'

“The DoE's primary focus should be protecting the environment, not protecting industry. Industry has an important role in our community, but not at the expense of people, communities and the environment.'

If, as the Minister claims, she wants improved community consultation then the Minister should clearly provide the policy for the department to ensure that all projects are subjected to a high level of environmental impact assessment, ongoing monitoring and a consistent prosecutions policy, which will ultimately bring about the desired result.

“The Minister should not set up committees with high levels of industry representation, and then later claim all community concerns have been met,' Mr Chapple concluded.

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