At least one Australian politician understands sustainability

The ASPO Australia web site has a transcript of an address given on 04 Mar 08 to the Brisbane Institute by the Honourable Andrew McNamara, Queensland Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation. In his presentation entitled “Highway of Diamonds” the Minister talks about sustainability in terms of climate change, peak oil and population density. The transcript is well worth a read.

The most interesting thing I took away from it was his reference to papers written in the 40’s and 70’s that show we’ve known for over 50 years that our world would not be able to support ever increasing numbers of humans with ever increasing appetites for consumption, yet we’ve turned a blind eye in the name of progress.

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4 Responses

  1. Not bad – at the very least he has an excellent speech writer!

  2. Thanks. Actually I wrote it all myself, as is my wont. Old habits die hard.

  3. Andrew Mcnamar is a weak and disinterested minister and the Department he heads is underfunded.

    I am a local in Hervey Bay Andrew Mcnamaras electorate and know that he is more concerned with his local networks and business relationships than with sustainabilty or the environment. He is all lip service to the environment – nothing more just like the rest of the Bligh Labour govt.

    A case study in disinterest is the funding and failings of the Lenthalls Dam Gates.

    The gates were designed to increase the storage capacity for the impoundment and release flood flows to provide environmental flow to the Burrum River.

    The gates cost $10 Millon Dollars, were installed in December 2007 and failed from Janaury 2008 today – the gates still do not work.

    Andrew Mcnamar was quoted in our local newspaper the Fraser Coast Choncile saying to effect that he had ” had enough bottles of wine with Tim Waldron ( dam operator) to know the .. project was good.

    That is Andrew Mcnamara placed his full support behind the CEO responsible for the installation and operation of the failed gates – forget the environment or charging the operator under the Water Act or the Catchment Management Act.

    There was a significant public saftey risk also posed by the failure of these gates this is our family story

    Our own experience of dam gate failure at Lenthalls Dam on the Burrum River is a telling – it is indicative of an inability to understand risk and manage public saftey issues

    You would imagine that Dam infrastructure in Australia is safe – however our experience on the Burrum River in QLD shows just how easy it is to become a fatality when Dam Infrastructure fails.

    Gates constructed in December 2007 at Lenthalls Dam on the heavily impounded Burrum River failed to lower to release flood water as designed in Febuary 2008.
    Wide Bay Water was the constructing authority and responsible for the design and operation of the dam gate infrastructure.
    Our upstream farm house, where the tributaries join the dam proper was cut of when flood water continued to back up much higher than the constructing authority Wide Bay Water had predicted the water levels would ever go.
    Three family members were stuck at our farm house. The emergency evacuation plan found in the Lenthalls Dam Emergency Action Plan called for evacuation after water levels reached RL26.91 – water levels reached 27.4 at the dam wall flowing over the blocked gates and backed up to RL28.5 at our house. No one evacuated the famuily members stranded in rising water.
    No one from the constructing authority Wide Bay Water contacted us to undertake evacuation or explain the risk we faced due to Crest Gate Failure.
    We believe the CEO Tim Waldron was overseas at conference when the event happed ( Andrew Mcnamaras mate he drinks with).

    The Operations manuals for the dam place responsibilty with the CEO as does the action plan. He has not been called to account for his failure to take responsible action to ensure an evacuation would occur in his abscence if required.

    If the rain event had not stopped the three people cut off at our flood impacted farm house would have been inundated by metres of water.

    We heard about the dam failure from other locals close to the dam wall who had heard the gates have failed – we now have full evidence to verify the dam gate failure.

    We were very lucky the rain event that caused the flooding to back up over the failed dam gate, stopped.

    It is however only a matter of time before a dam infrastructure failure in the Australia causes fatalities.

    We feel that maybe operational and human failures that have occured without fatality have been coverd up and are not generally reported or researched. We also feel that due to the connections mentioned earlier – the state is reluctant to prosecute.

    It is likely constructing authorities keep these instances quiet.

    See the article:
    Resident fears dam gates risk flooding
    Posted Wed May 21, 2008 8:26am AEST
    Updated Wed May 21, 2008 8:25am AEST
    • Map: Hervey Bay 4655
    A land-holder upstream of a major dam south-west of Hervey Bay says multi-million dollar barriers on the storage are broken, putting her family at risk of flooding.
    Queensland Deputy Premier Paul Lucas will officially open the $16 million project at Lenthalls Dam, which is designed to more than double the storage’s capacity.
    In what is claimed to be an Australian first, the two metre high crest gates sink when the dam reaches capacity to prevent flooding upstream and provide for environmental flows.
    But Esther Allan says in February the gates jammed, causing water to back up onto her property.
    “This is an extremely expensive piece of infrastructure. Ratepayers paid for this and their expectation would be that it would be operable,” she said.
    “If it wasn’t, we need to know why – not only because our family’s safety was put at risk, but because ratepayers expect to get a result from the infrastructure they pay for.”
    The local government corporation that runs Lenthalls Dam says the gates do not work, but it was monitoring the rising water.
    Wide Bay Water general manager David Wiskar says adjustments were needed during the dam’s commissioning and are continuing.
    “The gates were all needing some fine-tuning. At the moment we were able to complete that tuning on three of the gates,” he said.
    “There’s two that remain to be done, but we’re waiting until the level in the dam falls to an adequate level to [do] those final two.”
    The Lenthalls Dam Gates are still not fully operational today September 2008 and heading into the QLD summer flood season.

    Climate Change will continue to place increased pressure on infrastructure in Australia the frequency of extreme storm and weather events will be a counterpoint to extreme drought.

    If the infrastructure cannot be managed safely now – those who live in areas affected by damming have much to worry about. Climate change will increase the risks posed by failed infrastructure.

    The risks remain for all of those who live on dammed river systems – those in Government like Andrew Mcnamara with entrenched relationships will do nothing.

    This is sustainabilty and ethics – Bligh Govt Style

  4. 270 Downstream Residents at Risk as Lenthalls Dam Gates Hervey Bay are still not operable.
    Wide Bay Water Corporation still have not consulted affected residents upstream regarding the Emergency Action Plan in the event an evacuation is required or residents need to be contacted.

    With a view to investigating the reasons that Public Saftey with Respect to Lenthalls Dam Gate Failure has never been taken too seriously ( or at least upstream saftey issues) we have been looking in the the qualifications and background of the key decision makers within Wide Bay Water Corporation.

    Engineers Registered with the as Proffessional Engineers with the Board of Proffessional Engineers Queensland have an obligation under their code of practice to act with public saftey as a priority.

    It came as a suprise to us to find that of the senior staff and the CEO of WBW only one person a Peter Robbins of Springwood is registered with the BPEQ to operate as an engineer in QLD. The only other BPEQ registered engineer at Wide Bay Water Corporation in a senior decision making role is Mr Thomsen on the board of Directors WBW. Mr Thomsen is located at Ormiston not Hervey Bay.

    The requirements are that unregistered engineers, and it seems there are many in WBW HB, must act under the direct Locational supervision of a registered Engineer.

    That is they must be supervised by enineers located at Hervey Bay.

    Is the CEO under constant supervision by MR Thomsen from the Board? and if so how much is the ratepayer paying for Mr Thomsen to be continually in HB supervising the CEO? The continual travel from Ormiston Brisbane would be expensive?
    The Operations Manual for Lenthalls dam placeds ultimate responsibility for operation with the CEO? Who is supervising the CEO with respect to the Civil and Mechanical and Hyraulogical management of Lenthalls Dam?
    Where are is the supervising engineer located?

    We are confused about how all this works but at least now we feel we understand where the lack of understanding with respect to the saftey of upstream land holders may lie.

    Not being BPEQ registered Engineers these senior staff at WBW do not have the same obigations a registered engineer with BPEQ would have.
    It is in the public interest to ask would they be more focussed on public saftey if the code of practice for registered engineers applied to them?

    Wether this explains the strange lack of consultation with respect to the Emergency Action Plan and the inability to ensure that practical workable contact numbers are included in this document and the lack of admission to land holders about the risk they face we dont know.

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