Topics: Shenhua Watermark project
I came here to listen today to farmers, to Indigenous leaders, to Barnaby Joyce and to the community, to hear what they had to say about their land, their water, their children and in particular – the future. It’s immensely valuable. There is no substitute for getting your hand in the dirt, for literally feeling the land, for hearing the stories.
I have, in the last 24 hours, issued a significant action. I have presented a request for advice to the Independent Expert Scientific Committee. In short – I have stopped the clock on the Shenhua project to seek additional advice on protecting water resources and aquifers from the best experts on groundwater in the country. That was not just in response to the requests of the community and also in particular, Barnaby, but also because it was the right thing to do to get the best science because never take risks with water, with the future, not just for children and grandchildren, but for centuries hence.
The last thing is – these are great people who are deeply concerned and my task and my responsibility is to deal with the Federal environmental matters. This process was started by State Labor. It was continued over the last four years by the current State Government. We have only just begun the Federal process which can only be considered against what are called the matters of national environmental significance.
But I am determined, with the stopping of the clock, to ensure that we get from the independent experts the best science, the best information about water so as we protect water resources for the future and it will take as long as it takes to get the best advice and the complete advice.
It’s great to have Greg here and it’s also great to be here with Kevin, Kevin Anderson, because this has been a team effort to make sure that we give these people on the Liverpool Plains a better chance, a reprieve, while we collect further information. It is hard to get a Minister for 20 minutes. It is awfully difficult to get them for an hour.
But to get a senior Minister that is of vital importance to the people of the Liverpool Plains, out for a day, means that we are out on the ground trying to make sure that we respect the dignity of the people and we make sure that we are doing everything that is within our powers – not outside our powers – but within very limited powers to assess this project once again. Now I must commend also Kevin Anderson and the work that he’s been doing in lobbying on this and if you don’t work as a team, you don’t get anywhere.
What particular concerns do you have with the water modelling? Are you concerned with the vertical connectivity of what’s been put on the table?
So what I have asked for is any additional advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee. It is extraordinary that the previous Labor Government never applied the water trigger. One of the first things that I did on coming to office was to apply the water trigger.
But still – now is the time to get the advice on connectivity, on any issues, given the fact that we now have the New South Wales PAC advice and response because I want to know everything that we need to know about connectivity, about whether or not there is adequate modelling, about whether or not we have adequate proof and my decision rests and depends on understanding and protecting the water resources which come under the Federal environment act.
A review of this could take maybe three to four years. Are you prepared to delay the project that much?
Well it will take as long as it takes because my task, my duty, my responsibility is to ensure that we have full information and adequate protection of the water resources.
That’s it. Alright.
What do you have to say to the Gomeroi who’ve been particularly affected by this?
It was a great honour to spend time with the Gomeroi and I listened to their stories and I pledged to take into account through the different processes all of their concerns. I apologise about that plane, but thank you very much.
Thank you Minister.