Experts required for inquiry into leaking bund wall

THE public could lose confidence in a Federal Government inquiry into a leaking bund wall in Gladstone Harbour, if proper expertise is not involved.

That was the message from the Queensland president of Engineers Australia Blake Harvey, who urged Environment Minister Greg Hunt to include engineers on the panel investigating the issue.

Mr Hunt last month initiated the inquiry, led by CSIRO scientists and a former senior Environment Department official, to get to the bottom of a bund wall that leaked in 2011 and 2012.

The wall was built to hold dredged spoil from a Gladstone Ports Corporation dredging project, but engineers who worked on the project have hit out at the methods used.

Largely focused on engineering and construction issues around the bund wall, the inquiry will also look at the approval conditions on the Western Basin dredging project, among other things.

On January 31, Mr Harvey wrote to Mr Hunt urging him to include engineering expertise on the panel, to ensure the problems were properly investigated.

"I'm not trying to criticise the scientists on the panel, but the inquiry is all about design and construction, so it's important to have a respected engineering professional on the panel," he said.

"You need someone there with the appropriate expertise that can interpret and fully understand the issues."

Mr Harvey said despite a series of inquiries at state and federal government level into problems in Gladstone Harbour, there was a lack of community confidence in the outcomes of those investigations.

"If we go through another one of these exercises and people with the right expertise are not on the panel, then how can the public have confidence in its findings?" he said.

While a spokesman for Mr Hunt has confirmed engineers and other interested people can send submissions to the inquiry, he has not committed to including engineering expertise on the panel itself.

Mr Harvey also confirmed Mr Hunt had not yet officially responded to his letter sent in January, despite the inquiry due to be completed in March.

Mr Hunt's spokesman said in a statement that the panel will "draw on any independent expert advice if required", and that public submissions would be made available.

"As part of the review, if it is suspected a contravention of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act has occurred, a range of coercive powers are available, including issuing statutory notices to persons to provide information," he said.

"When taking public submissions for the review, the department will ensure that all parties are aware that the department may be authorised or required by law to disclose the submissions in the future including under the FOI Act or where the department has been served with a valid search warrant.

"To ensure that all relevant information is available, the panel has been asked to seek submissions from interested parties. The participation of Engineers Australia would be welcomed in this process."



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