Gippsland Lakes, Kalbar and Climate by Chas Becket

Mine free Glenaladale

(letter to the Bairnsdale Advertiser – unpublished)

The Gippsland Lakes is one of those rare entities that once had many Earth Mothers. These were the Thomson, Latrobe, Nicholson and Tambo catchments and closer to home, the Mitchell catchment. The Mitchell is the last wild river and true Earth Mother that helps to feed and maintain the beautiful Lakes system. All the other catchments have been exploited for economic reasons in such a way that unfortunately has altered the ecology of the Gippsland Lakes.

Mother Nature is creaking under the weight of interference from the human race. This interference is manifesting in a climate change condition the symptom of which is extreme weather behaviour. It is either the presence of extreme heat and dryness, a catalyst for bush fires, ferocious winds or just too much water causing major flooding. All these symptoms impact on lives, property and infrastructure. Sand mine notwithstanding, the local agricultural industry will have enough on its plate adapting to the severe conditions of climate change let alone having to adapt to a potentially industry and environment polluting sand mine.

World renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough opened the UN climate summit on Monday 3rd December with the following observation in reference to climate change and I quote. “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world are on the horizon”. We may attribute this extreme natural behaviour to human inducement or we may not. Regardless, the change is happening and a new metrological term has emerged. ‘Accelerated Climate Change’

So, it is proposed to have a large 1700 odd hectare mineral sand mine operation with twenty years of operating life on high ground adjacent to the pristine Mitchell River and an economically significant and intensely inhabited agricultural food bowl within the Mitchell catchment. This food bowl is so critical that even house building, a non-agricultural activity, is now regulated by the Planning Scheme so not to impact on the integrity of the agricultural industry. Therefore, how could the Lindenow Valley sustain this major extractive industry?

The mineral sand mine application process has been navigated through to the State Government for a judgement based upon an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) being prepared for Kalbar Resources. Even under normal and predictable conditions, the EES is seen by State Government Auditor General as a flawed document that is traditionally skewed in favour of the applicant. Politicians of either stripe are always positive towards applications requiring an EES in fear of discouraging future investments in a process known as ‘Sovereign Risk’.

How can Kalbar Resources or their consultants anticipate what form these extreme weather conditions will take and what remedial measures they intend to adopt over the life of the mine? This may explain why many local people are disgruntled when at public forums Kalbar Resources consultants allegedly gave the mushroom reply to people’s queries followed with the ubiquitous ‘wait until the EES is concluded’. Are Kalbar being disingenuous or they just don’t know? Sadly, even the perception of contamination can ruin the marketability of Lindenow Valley produce.

I am trying to contemplate the impact this mine may have on our beautiful inland waters. Could the Gippsland Lakes survive losing the last Earth Mother? Do the dozen or so ‘out of town’ board of directors, secretary and executives of Kalbar Resources really care?