South Sister St. Marys, Tasmania

South Sister

council asked to serve epn

Mr Tony Walker
Environment Officer
Break O' Day Council
PO Box 21
St Helens, TAS. 7216
11 March, 2005

Our Ref : BODC 27/WIAW/42

Dear Mr Walker,

We write to ask that you issue, as authorised by Sec 44 (2) of the EMPCA Act 1994, an Environmental Protection Notice to Forestry Tasmania to order it, its agents or servants, not to conduct forest operations on Coupe NI114A at South Sister, St Marys, from the date of the notice until 8th June 2005, on the grounds that those operations are likely to cause material environmental harm and an environmental nuisance in contravention of Section 51(2) and Section 53(2)of EMPCA - specifically that evidence indicates that the proposed forest operations for the coupe will:

I attach for your information seven (7) expert reports referring to the landslide potential of the coupe and surrounding area, and the potential for timber harvesting operations on the coupe to damage the groundwater recharge and transmission system of the area.

Expert evidence attached indicates that the St Marys town water supply is also derived from this source, and in this regard I refer you also to the report St Marys Water Supply Strategy 1998 (Sinclair Knight Mertz) in the possession of Council.

We are aware that Council has been provided with a report " Brief Review of Evidence relating to effect of Coupe NI114A Harvest on water yield of St Marys Water and Domestic Water Intakes" by P D McIntosh, Forest Practices Board, 20 December , 2004, and a report "Scientific Review of Water Supply Impacts of Proposed Forestry Operations in Coupe NI114A at South Sister" ( Dr P Lane).

During a hearing before the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal on 4th March 2005, the attached reports formed part of the evidence assessed by the Tribunal, and the report of Dr Lane was submitted by Forestry Tasmania. You will see in the Decision handed down by the Chairman of the Tribunal (copy attached) that he was "satisfied that there is a prima facie case established by the evidence tendered on behalf of the applicants" that the forest operations would be likely to cause a significant interference with the surface and groundwater systems in the South Sister area, and increase the risk of landslides.

You will note that the report of Dr McIntosh was not submitted by Forestry Tasmania to the Tribunal - in this respect you would see that his report states - the two scientific documents are the reports of Sloane and Weldon (1998) and Roberts (2004). The report of Sloane and Weldon is the one we refer to above, in the possession of Council as part of the SKM report, which indicates that the town water bore derives its supply from the area of the coupe and the Jubilee Mine - which may be why this report was not put forward by Forestry Tasmania. The Roberts (2004) report was not put forward in evidence either - possibly because the author was subsequently revealed as not having the necessary qualifications in hydrogeology to assess the groundwater system, and/or because the report showed that the impact of timber operations would be to reduce the water yield from the coupe area by an average 18% p.a over a 57 year period after harvesting. This reduction would be that suffered only from the impact on evapotranspiration rates due to harvesting, and ignored the additional reduction, or possibly total failure, of water supply arising from damage to the recharge and transmission system arising from forest operations.

Accordingly, of these two reports (McIntosh and Lane), one was not tendered in evidence, while the other one was submitted, but was not regarded as having sufficient weight, so are not relevant to your consideration of this application.

However, despite the finding in respect of the evidence, the Tribunal did not issue a Temporary Order to Forestry Tasmania, because the applicants (the residents of St Marys) had submitted that there was no justification for them to indemnify Forestry Tasmania against loss if it was not able to proceed to harvest the coupe. The Tribunal found that the applicants only had a private interest, and so should be prepared to give an undertaking, but stated that a Council would have a public interest which would not require such an undertaking.

Of course there is no question of such costs anyway with respect to the issuing of an EPN, but it was significant that the Tribunal made particular mention of the public interest of a Council in relation to the matter of environmental harm.

The lack of a Temporary Order, purely on financial grounds, means that logging can proceed in the period from now until the date set for the Final Hearing of the evidence before RMPAT, on 6th June, 2005. Accordingly, we ask that you issue an EPN on the basis of the evidence, as confirmed by the RAMPAT, to prevent logging taking place and causing environmental harm, to protect the water supplies of ratepayers, and to protect the water supply within the gazetted Water district of St Marys. In addition to the recognition by the Tribunal of the prima facie case established by our evidence, you are able to apply the Precautionary Principle to the protection of the water resources of the area, as declared at Schedule 1 Part 2 Sec3(h) of EMPCA.

The enclosed reports are self explanatory, but we draw to your attention the map prepared by Mineral Resources Tasmania showing how the coupe sits above the abandoned coal mine workings of the Jubilee Coal Mine, which abuts the active landslide area identified by Sloane D J in surveys for the Forestry Commission in 1976.

In this respect you are also particularly referred to the expert advice by Rallings R A in his letter to the Minister Mr B Green 7/3/05 when he states "the failure to properly investigate the slopes below the coupe is imprudent and borders on negligence - no operations should be carried out on this coupe until the slope stability issues have been appropriately investigated", "the cost of stabilising a large slide may be in the orders of millions of dollars".

The report of Sloane refers to the "landslip areas present in the Jubilee Mine area", while Latinovic (Mineral Resources Tasmania) refers to "the local aquifers in South Sister area which supply water to local springs and streams may be affected by the proposed Forestry operations - and over the period of time landslides may develop".

Ingles O G states that "it would be quite irresponsible to conduct any harvesting operations - during March, April or May - as lives could be at risk". However, at all times "deep slips could be a hazard,where pore water pressure on planes of weakness in the rock strata can, and seemingly have, produce major slide events".

Stapledon D refers to the high risk of reactivation of past landslides, and to the risk of first time sliding for apparently undisturbed slopes, and comments upon the advice by Dr P McIntosh of the Forest Practice Board that "this coupe has all the potential for landslides".

Leaman DE considers that "the proposal is a high risk activity", "better to treat this area as a protected water catchment subject only to natural activity", " the material is capable of mass failure".

You are particularly referred to the views of Dr D E Leaman (January 17 2005), regarding both the supply of water local to South Sister, and to the supply to the bore at St Marys, which needs to be considered together with the 1998 report by Council's own consultants, SKM, as establishing that the St Marys town water supply is derived from the coupe.

D W Clement
For Save Our Sisters

 

Enclosures:

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