Another panel for the harbour
A NEW independent scientific panel is being created by the Queensland Government to advise the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership.
The panel's creation comes after different independent scientific panel was created late last year to hand down a special report in January. That panel was disbanded by the Labor Government before the election on March 28.
Since the fish disease crisis turned Gladstone into a national headline in September last year, critics' concerns about the impact of dredging in the harbour have led to a constant stream of scientific reporting.
Environment Minister Andrew Powell yesterday rejected suggestions another scientific panel would simply be doubling up on previous scientific work.
Here are his answers to questions from The observer yesterday:
1/ Having an independent scientific panel seems like a good idea, but didn't we already have an independent scientific panel?It was established in October 2011 and delivered a report in January 2012. At the time, the chair of the panel, Dr Ian Poiner, told me the panel's work would be ongoing in some capacity. Has that independent panel been disbanded?
The independent scientific panel established by the previous government in 2011 was formed for the specific purpose of delivering the report they handed down in January this year for the previous Minister.
The previous government did not formally continue the panel after that report was delivered.
However, a number of panel members, including Dr Poiner have extensive experience in this area and have continued to work closely with EHP as we work to address the ongoing issues in Gladstone Harbour.
2/ Why get rid of one independent scientific panel and create another? Why not simply continue the existing independent scientific panel?
The decision not to formally continue the previous panel's role was made by a former Minister, we are establishing a collaborative partnership with universities, scientists, industry bodies and the wider community.
3/ The release quotes Mr Powell as saying: "This is a unique opportunity to be a leader of the innovative change required to achieve improved environmental and ecosystem health outcomes for Gladstone Harbour." Can we take it from that statement that the minister is of the view that environmental management of the harbour requires improvement?
I have clearly stated on a number of occasions since the election that I would like to see improvements in Gladstone Harbour, particularly in relation to water quality. As The Observer reported on April 18, (see attached) this issue has been a high priority for me since I took over this portfolio earlier this year.
Director-General Andrew Chesterman and I visited the area just weeks after being sworn in.
Our proposal to establish the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership is indicative of the ongoing commitment Mr Chesterman and I have to the people of Gladstone.
4/ The reasons to have an independent scientific panel are clear (and obviously quite reasonable), but do you think the community might be feeling a bit scientific-paneled-out? Over the past 12 months, they have witnessed a conveyor belt of "independent scientific" reports from various authors.
I have said from the outset that I intend to base all policy decisions, both in Gladstone and across Queensland, on scientific evidence. I have also said I will be clear and transparent in this process, and as such we have always made the science available to members of the public.
We are hoping to increase community involvement as part of the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership.