Coastal Sun December 13th 2001 – A Litany of Secrecy

A litany of ‘secrecy’

By Heather Tindale (Published in the Coastal Sun 13 December 2001)

“A council must keep the local community and the State Government (and through it, the wider community) informed about its activities.” Local Government Act 1993 – sect. 8

On June 28, a closed meeting was held in Batemans Bay at the State Forest Office. Representatives from the companies involved in the charcoal plant, five State Government Departments, Eurobodalla Shire Council and the site owner met to discuss issues arising from the project.

The meeting was kept confidential. The public was not informed.

On July 27, full council was briefed on the not yet ‘state significant’ project and voted to encourage the consortium to undertake an Environmental Impact Study, conduct public consultation and keep council informed. The meeting was closed. The public was not informed.

On August 28, the Director of Environmental Planning, Peter Tegart briefed councillors on status of project.

He stated that Council’s role was to assist with the EIS and with the conditions of approval. He further stated that the company was planning to double the facility in five years time.

REF: Council minutes stamped confidential.

The meeting was closed. The public was not informed.

Why was the public kept in the dark? The project did not fit the criteria for ‘commercial confidentiality’.

The plant was seen to be of major impact on the community as a whole. There were no other companies tendering for the plant, so Australian Silicon would not be disadvantaged by public disclosure.

The council did not appear to be carrying out its duty to “keep the local community informed”.

There are a number of anomalies, which have been pointed out by members of ‘Charcoalition’.

Why was the council briefed in July, that the project was designated ‘state significant’?

The latter was not declared until August 7. This must have coloured their decision to encourage the consortium. How did the company pick that site?

A company representative stated at a public meeting that the Eurobodalla Shire Council gave them the site, maps, names and phone numbers.

Why was the fact that the company intended to double the facility in 5 years kept secret?

This fact was ignored at the special council meeting on Monday. Mayor Cairney asked twice for it to be recorded in the minutes.

There have been several whispers that the company is looking at an alternate site in Eurobodalla Shire, possibly north of the bridge. This project will not just disappear.

Charcoalition members want answers. They are not a bunch of radical greenies, as they have been portrayed. They are very worried residents of the Nature Coast. Worried that secrecy not transparency is the operative word and that this secrecy could lead to the end of Eurobodalla Shire’s greatest treasure – its ‘fragile environment’.

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