Feb 28 2014
Media Release 28.2.2014
The Maules Creek Community Council has written a letter of complaint to the Professional Conduct Committee of the Australian Ecological Consultants Association (ECA) in relation to the Maules Creek coal mine biodiversity offsets.
The offsets properties in question were part of a package put together by Cumberland Ecology in order for Whitehaven coal to get state and federal approval for its controversial mine.
The offsets have been disputed by four reports, the last of which found that of the areas independently surveyed only 5% of the offsets are in fact the Critically Endangered Ecological Community “Box Gum Woodland”.
“This is just wrong. How can we allow anybody to reasonably claim that the Leard State Forest will be protected by the offset properties when we can only be 5% confident in the offsets?” said local farmer, birdwatcher and Council spokesperson, Roselyn Druce.
“We have written to the society to seek redress for the information provided on behalf of the mine proponent Whitehaven coal. I have seen the offset properties in question and anyone can see that these properties will never compensate for the destruction of the old growth habitat in the Leard State Forest” she said.
“It is a matter of deep regret and personal distress to the ecological society members with whom I have met to see what is going on.”
“We are putting the professional body on notice that this kind of thing will not be tolerated. The work carried out by ecologists in the name of science is negatively impacting our environment and our community” said local beef producer and Council member Alistair Todd.
“We expect the Ecological Consultant Society to act to protect the reputation of its current members and make a clear public statement in relation to this complaint, outlining what steps it will take to remedy our matter” he said.
“Even now the company is clearing the forest and building its mine while the Minister is sitting on his hands, failing to act on the likely breach of the federal approval conditions.”
Attachment 1 – Letter of Complaint to Ecological Consultants Association
Atten: Martin Denny
Professional Conduct Committee
Ecological Consultants Association
39 Platt Street Waratah, NSW 2298
Re: Maules Creek Coal Mine
Dear Mr Denny;
Maules Creek Community Council is a community based organisation whose mission is to educate and inform the community and to liase with government, companies and other community groups about issues relevant to the Maules Creek community
We are writing to make a formal complaint about the Environmental Assessments prepared by Cumberland Ecology for the Maules Creek Coal Mine, specifically in relation to a proposed offsets package to offset the destruction of the Leard State forest for open cut coal mining.
A new report that examines the proposed offsets adjacent to the Mt Kaputar National Park prepared by Dr John Hunter says:
“It is the inescapable conclusion based on the sampling of 68 sites within the areas of alleged White Box CEEC mapped by Cumberland Ecology that the extent of the CEEC is vastly overstated and perusal of the data collected within other mapped units that the other vegetation types are equally poorly circumscribed and mapped. Based on the results reviewed herein, the on-ground extent of this critically endangered ecological community is approximately 2- 5% of the area mapped as such by Cumberland Ecology but that some small isolated occurrences may occur within other mapped units. However these additional patches are unlikely to increase the amount of CEEC appreciably.”
It is also the opinion of the author that “any remnant of White box CEEC found at/or near the altitudinal limit of this community (approximately 800-1000 m a.s.l.) will not be representative of the CEEC as found in and around Maules Creek at 300-400 m a.s.l. What minor areas of CEEC that may occur within the designated offset are not likely to contain the same species composition as the White Box CEEC community that may be cleared in Leard State Forest.”
The offset package proposed by the proponent of this mine was crucial to the company being able to secure approval for the clearing of 544ha of this critically endangered community. This report follows three other investigations and reports into the matter and a federal investigation that has not either been finalised or reported, despite 12 months having elapsed since the investigation was commenced.
It appears that the information supplied to the state and federal governments by Cumberland Ecology on behalf of the mine proponent is questionable. We believe that the Society’s Code of Conduct (Point 3) has been breached. It states “Members will be personally accountable for the validity of all work that they carry out or direct.”
Detailed analysis by qualified experts disputing the assessments made by Cumberland Ecology has been available since March 2013: it appears likely that Cumberland Ecology has provided incorrect information which ultimately will enable the clearing of a large area of a nationally critically endangered ecological community as well as habitat for a number of nationally threatened species.
We ask the Ecological Consultants Association to investigate this matter and to inform us of what action will be taken if is it is found that they have breached the Ecological Consultants Association Code of Conduct.
The environmental stakes are very high for the Leard State Forest and the fauna and flora contained within, as well as for the community around the forest who rely on the ecosystem services it provides.
We attach the report from Dr Hunter for your confidential perusal for the purposes of investigating this complaint and look forward to hearing your response.