A Queensland parliamentary committee inquiring into the cessation of sand mining on North Stradbroke Island has failed to agree on an appropriate end date.
The Government members argue that sand mining should end in 2019 in line with Labor’s pre-election commitments.
Non-Government members support a continuation of mining to 2035.
The only thing that all Committee members agreed on was to reject the compromise proposal for sand mining to be ended in 2024, put forward in a private members bill by the Katter Party’s Shane Knuth. This is the Committee’s one and only recommendation:
The committee recommends that the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability (Renewal of Mining Leases) Amendment Bill 2015 (the Private Member’s Bill) not be passed.
The Committee’s Report makes the following comment on the cessation of sand mining (Page 26):
“Based on individual submissions received to the inquiry, the committee notes the community is divided in terms of support for an early or later cessation timeframe for sand mining activities on North Stradbroke Island (105 submitters supported a date of 2019 or earlier while 75 submitters expressed opposition to the 2019 date; 56 submitters supported alternate dates of 2024, 2027 and 2035 while 87 submitters expressed opposition to the 2024 and 2035 dates). The committee further notes that not all submissions directly addressed or stated a preferred cessation timeframe.
During the inquiry process it also became clear to the committee that there was not a full understanding across all stakeholders about the full range of mine closure scenarios. The non-government members consider that stakeholders may not have been sufficiently informed or aware that the option of maintaining the status quo in the current Act of 2035 remained an alternative option for comment.
The committee was unable to reach consensus on the most appropriate timeframe for cessation.”
The report sets out views of both Government and non-government members which are quoted below.
Government members’ comments
“Government members support the government’s policy objective, as provided for within the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2015, to substantively phase out sand mining by 2019. The Government members consider 2019 to be most appropriate as it respects the rights and interests of the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee people to enjoy uninterrupted access to their native cultural lands and provides for the protection of the rich biodiversity and environmental values of the island. It is for these reasons the government members cannot support any later timeframe, be that 2024 (as provided for in the Private Member’s Bill), 2027 (as suggested by the mine operator), or 2035 (as the current Act as amended in 2013 provides).”
Non-government members’ comments
“Non-government members supported the retention of current provisions within the current Act allowing for the renewal of mining leases until 2035 (inclusive of a non-winning renewal until 2040). Non-Government members believe a significant majority of the submissions and witnesses who appeared before the committee support an end date of 2027 or later. Non-government members note that in addition to many submitters and witnesses that specifically supported a date of 2027 or later, 17 written submissions prefer a later date in general but cite no specific year for cessation, whilst a further 17 written submissions are supportive of mining continuing in general on north Stradbroke Island but cite no specific year for cessation. The non-government members are satisfied that these submitters do not object to the status quo, that is, that 2035 should be the end date.
When questioned by the committee as to why a 2024 end date was put forward in the Private Member’s Bill, the Member for Dalrymple, stated that “it was just a nice a compromise” and that there was no other reason for selecting that date. The non-government members find it odd that a date of 2024 is regarded as “a nice compromise” by the Member, given that the Government Bill targets 2019 and the status quo is 2035. The non-government members make the observation that an even handed approach to a compromise between those two ends, would be 2027. The non-government members make the further observation that a significant number of stakeholders were supportive of 2027, including the mine operator. In supporting that date, the mine operator was also able to offer significant additional financial support to the island, in the order of $20m. The non-government members believe that, if proper consultation had been undertaken by the Member, he may have been inclined to accept the later date of 2027. Given that scenario, the Member may have found significant support amongst stakeholders for his Bill. It is fair to say, this is one example of the lack of proper consultation demonstrated by the Member and that lack of proper consultation is a major reason why non-government members are unable to support the Bill.”
In the Report’s foreword, Committee Chairperson Peter Russo notes:
“Proper consultation is a cornerstone of good government. A function of this committee was to engage in meaningful consultation, and then to reflect on the product of that consultation, and report to the government as to whether or not the Bill should be commended to the House, and if so, whether in its current form, or whether amendments should be made.”
The Committee undertook extensive consultation during its inquiry, but has failed to reach agreement on a way forward. The Report says (page 9):
“The committee notes the criticisms expressed by stakeholders in relation to the consultation undertaken by the Government and by the Member for Dalrymple during drafting and prior to the introduction of the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2015 and the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability (Renewal of Mining Leases) Amendment Bill 2015.
The committee further notes that concerns regarding the adequacy and inclusiveness of consultation were shared by diverse groups of stakeholders. The Government’s approach to consultation in this instance was not unusual and indeed may have been adequate in other policy circumstances. However, due to the direct personal and community impacts associated with the policy objective of phasing out sand mining on north Stradbroke Island, individuals, the community and other stakeholders affected by this legislation had higher expectations of consultation.
Insufficient prior consultation identified by stakeholders led the committee to undertake extensive consultation during its inquiry. The committee endeavoured to ensure it undertook extensive consultation to engage all stakeholders and provide multiple opportunities for comment on the bills before the House. Indeed this demonstrates the valuable role of the committee system to provide for scrutiny and review of legislative proposals. The submissions received from stakeholders and transcripts of the committee’s various public forums and hearings are publically available and the wide range of views expressed canvassed within this report.
Stakeholders repeatedly raised concern that no regulatory impact assessment or cost-benefit analysis had been undertaken for either the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2015 or the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability (Renewal of Mining Leases) Amendment Bill 2015.”
Cost-benefit analysis (Redlands2030 comment)
Cost benefit analysis is an appropriate way to examine the economic, social and environmental issues and impacts of major government decisions. It would be an appropriate way to assess options (and tradeoffs) for the cessation of mining on North Stradbroke Island.
Proposals for the redevelopment of Toondah Harbour should also be assessed using cost-benefit analysis.
Indeed, the issues are closely linked and any cost-benefit analysis assessments would need to use consistent assumptions and methodology.
Read the Report
Anyone with a concern about when sand mining ends on North Stradbroke Island should read the Committee’s Report.
Submissions to the Committee can be viewed here.
And here is a link to the inquiry overview.