WRAP media release - 23 June 2021
State Government has lied about geotechnical drilling
Last week, the State Government informed residents on Birralee Road that geotechnical drilling will re-commence on the nature conservation reserve near Westbury "in coming weeks".
Drilling came to a halt on the reserve in late October 2020, with the Government blaming poor weather and site conditions. It stated that drilling would recommence when these conditions had improved and when the contractors were available.
Documents recently released via Right to Information show that these statements are lies.
Drilling was originally scheduled for 12th October 2020, but was put on hold when the State Government was hauled into discussions with the Commonwealth Government over concerns that proper environmental assessments had not been done.
Drilling was then rescheduled for 19th October 2020, but this time contractors were stymied by poor preparation in the form of a low hanging branch that prevented their water tank from entering the reserve.
Drilling equipment finally made it onto the site on 20th October 2020, with vehicles churning up the ground and causing significant damage to the track.
But RTI documents show that this was not the reason the drilling works came to a halt.
"What in fact happened was that the drillers encountered a threatened species of tree on the reserve which presented an obstacle to any further progress." said Linda Poulton.
At a meeting on 26th October 2020 between representatives of DPIPWE and DoJ's consultants (Johnstone McGee & Gandy), Mr Andrew Crane of DPIPWE was tasked with ascertaining whether a Forest Practices Plan would be needed in order to prune or remove the tree. He was also tasked to ascertain whether a "Permit to Take" would be necessary to remove it under the Nature Conservation Act 2002. In the meantime, Johnstone McGee & Gandy were told to "delay the drillers until further notice". [See attachment A]
A brief was subsequently prepared by DPIPWE for Minister Jaensch to use in Parliamentary question time in November 2020. This brief confirms that this was the true cause of the delay. It states that "....drilling was planned for 19th October but was further delayed due to access constraints andů.the presence of threatened flora [being] more widespread at the site than previously recorded and that as such access to the proposed drill hole locations might impact on these plants".
The brief went on to say that "In light of this new information, the Department of Justice was [as at 27th October 2020] re-evaluating the need for the drilling to occur". [Attachment B]
"This information adds to the growing body of evidence that the natural values of this reserve are prolific and important. The Government can't even drill on site without potentially triggering processes under the Nature Conservation Act 2002.
The Government has not acknowledged any of this publicly, and in fact has completely lied about the reasons for the delay.
Given the natural values on the reserve, the proposal will unavoidably be beset by delay for as long as it runs its course. This is a problem of the State government's own creation. It is no wonder that the project is currently lagging behind by 12 months.
We call on the Government to acknowledge it has made a mistake. The Government needs to abandon the prison proposal on this reserve and should instead give it the legal protection it has been obliged to do for over 20 years. This is what the Commonwealth government is also calling on it to do." said Linda Poulton.
Spokesperson & Vice-President, WRAP Inc