South Sister St. Marys, Tasmania

South Sister

appendix to letter, fpa


[This is an APPENDIX to a letter from D W Clement of 22nd December 2005 requesting revocation or variation of the above Forest Practices Plan.]


1. Dr Roberts was employed by Forestry Tasmania as a hydrologist during 2004 and required to prepare a report on the water issues to be considered in planning the coupe, following a letter 9/11/04 to the District Forest Officer Bass expressing concerns about the impact of forest operations on the water system of South Sister. Her significance in this respect is confirmed by Mr S Manson, who advised 8/12/04 'Forestry Tasmania is currently waiting for a hydrology report for this coupe before completing the Forest Practices Plan'. The Minister for Infrastructure on 1/2/05 advised 'Forestry Tasmania has advised me that its hydrologist Dr Sandra Roberts and the Forest Practices Board's Dr Peter McIntosh have completed their studies and the results included in the relevant Forest Practices Plan'.

2. Emails obtained under Freedom of Information legislation show that Dr Roberts acknowledged her own lack of qualification, knowledge and experience in matters of groundwater when asked 4/11/04 by the Planning Coordinator of Forestry Tasmania, Mr P Rosevears, to investigate whether forest operations at South Sister would affect the bore water supplying St Marys. Her reply 4/11/04 is unequivocal, that she has no qualifications to provide expert opinion on groundwater issues.

'Aaaaagggghghhhhh!!!!! I will see what I can do. I never pretended to be a hydrogeologist'

3. She then prepared a report 'South Sister and harvesting in NI114A', the report relied upon with regard to water values in planning and certifying the Plan for the coupe. The report makes reference to numerous property owners utilising water from springs or bores derived from groundwater sourced from the coupe. Dr Roberts states that

'it is impossible to know without an in depth study of the permeability/transitivity/direction of flow/fracture planes and faults of the various strata exactly how groundwater moves through the landscape'

She then proceeded to prepare a report that addressed a matter (evapotranspiration) having no relevance to assessing a groundwater system or determining the potential impacts of forest operations on groundwater supplies, and even on this matter she abandons scientific method and states:-

'the best we can do is speculate'

4. In a further email to the Planning Coordinator on 10/11/2004, Dr Roberts specifically refused to accept advice from Mineral Resources Tasmania that to identify groundwater impacts the preferable approach would be to employ someone to set up a 10-15 year study of the area. Dr Roberts stated

'(this) is a ridiculous expectation, given that the results would only be applicable to the locality of the study.'

Given that the Forest Practices Code requires that specific site information be obtained to ensure proper planning of forest operations, this refusal by Dr Roberts to do so in respect of the groundwater system of a coupe whose hydrology is dependent on subsurface systems, invalidates any opinion provided by her, and in consequence invalidates the forest Practices Plan which is fatally flawed in respect of the assessment and protection of water from the potential impact of forest operations. She has no data about where the water is coming from or its path through the coupe, no knowledge about fracture flow, direction of purging, and recharge within the coupe, carried out no evaluation of the risks to groundwater circulation, made no attempt to collect even the most basic information about the groundwater regime of the coupe, did not take into account that there are no well defined streams above an elevation of 600m,(the level of the coupe) so that subsurface distribution of water is critical, did not take into account the risk of disruption of outlet paths or of underground connections, made no detailed or comprehensive investigation of the physical characteristics of the groundwater regime of the site, and in consequence had no adequate knowledge of the complex, invisible groundwater system, the hydrology local to South Sister, to allow her to reach scientifically based conclusions regarding the impact of forest operations on the hydrology of the coupe.

5. This refusal to seek site specific information is in direct contrast to the comments made by Dr Roberts herself in a 'Monthly Luncheon Talk' for Forestry Tasmania staff entitled 'Understanding the Water Demands of Forests' -

'there is a need to understand the specific site conditions of the site being studied when models are being utilised on sites other than where they were developed', and
'outcomes are entirely dependent on the specific site characteristics'.

6. Dr Roberts by her own admission is not qualified to report on the groundwater system of the coupe and adjacent area, has been advised of the correct scientific approach but has not followed it, has not used scientific method to assess the groundwater system of the coupe, has refused to follow expert opinion from a qualified groundwater expert, has refused to collect site specific information to assesses and protect the water values of the coupe, which are acknowledged to be those of a subsurface groundwater system, and has advised the Planning Coordinator of Forestry Tasmania (her employer) that speculation is the appropriate way to assess and determine the impact of forestry operations on the water values of the coupe, while rejecting the suggestion that an independent panel assess the likely impacts.

Dr Roberts failed to exercise due diligence in obtaining and providing information necessary for certification of the Forest practices Plan for Coupe NI114A


1. Dr McIntosh is the FPA Senior Scientist Soil and Water. He has, however, no professional qualifications or experience in hydrology, being a soil scientist.

2. The advice of Dr McIntosh relating to water contained in his email 20/12/04 to Mr Andy Corbould, Assistant Forest Manager Bass, was the trigger for certification of the FPP (Corbould to McIntosh 21/12/04 'Thanks very much Peter, we will proceed with certification of the FPP' - notably Mr Corbould does not say 'we will proceed to apply for certification'). The information in Dr McIntosh's email was in response to a request from Mr Corbould 'If you can get the recommendation done , I can finalise the SVs this arvo', but contained no reference to groundwater, simply stating 'I will finish my review of the water yield papers when I have Sandra's final report (in which her estimated yields of water may differ somewhat form the figures she has sent me to date) , but the conclusions are unlikely to change, so work on the coupe is not conditional on my final report being available'.

3. Dr McIntosh's review dated 20 December 2004, was entitled 'Brief Review of Evidence relating to effect of Coupe NI114A Harvest on water yield of St Marys township and Domestic Water Intakes'. He stated that 'the two relevant scientific documents are the reports of Sloane and Weldon (1998) and Roberts (2004)'.

His report contains no evidence, merely assertions, and insofar as it relies on Roberts (2004) is tainted and flawed by virtue of the factors outlined previously regarding the failure of due diligence, relevance, qualification etc. attached to Dr Roberts report.

Dr McIntoshes contribution to a review of 'evidence' is to make unsubstantiated assertions with regard to catchment areas, and to engage in a chain of reasoning based on statements which lead to a contrary conclusion based on no scientific evidence or method. His review states
'of course the above calculation is an oversimplification,',
'there are several factors whose influence on the supply of water is not known',
'the effects of these factors are impossible to quantify, given the present state of knowledge',
'it is pointless to try to model exact effects of harvest on the bore supply',
'it may be said with some confidence',
and uses a form of reasoning based on 'if on the one hand, if on the other hand', yet leads to the conclusion that 'harvest on coupe NI114A is unlikely to adversely affect water yields'.

4. He has been selective in his reference to relevant scientific documents, concentrating in his review on the Roberts (2004) report, but making no further analysis or comment on the report by Sloane and Welson which states that there is a direct groundwater connection between the coupe area and the bore at St Marys. Such selectivity is unscientific and would be an offence under the Oaths Act in presenting evidence.

5. In the above report, Dr McIntosh addresses the possible impact of forest operations on the groundwater system of the coupe and the potential impact on the supply of water to domestic users only by reference to the level of demand relative to the existing flow from the unharvested coupe, and provides no evidence as to any assessments made or prescriptions recommended to protect the supply of groundwater from the impacts of forest operations.

6. Dr McIntosh states in his review of evidence that the coupe NI114A is 120ha, asserting that this represents 4% of a catchment identified by him as 30km2. This is false and misleading information, as the coupe is 163ha, which would represent 5.4% of his theoretical catchment. Dr McIntosh has chosen to use a possible harvest area within the coupe as the measure of the coupe without identifying the area as such.

7. Dr McIntosh is unqualified to give advice on matters of water, particularly groundwater. In his review his style of argument is unscientific and would not be accepted in a scientific journal. Dr McIntosh's 'Review' fails to follow the normal procedure for scientific analysis in field sciences. Dr McIntosh has been selective, failing to give due weight to a relevant scientific document. He has presented false and misleading information. Within this context, the derived conclusions reached by Dr McIntosh are not dependable.

8. Dr McIntosh published a paper on Soils in the Forest Practices News Vol 3 No4, and it would be reasonable to expect him to be aware of the article 'Geomorphology - How Big is your Catchment' by Dr Kevin Kiernan, Senior Geomorphologist, Forest Practices Board which appeared on the same page as his article.

The article outlines the many complications involved in delineating a catchment, stressing the need for careful field checking to reduce the potential for error in catchment delineation, indicating that 'things get complicated in hilly terrain' (such as South Sister), that 'geological structures further complicate the situation', that 'there are many variations on this theme, with folds, faults and other structures having the potential to deflect groundwater in various directions', that 'dolerite generally has many vertical joints, which allow water to descend to the sedimentary rocks which may then deflect this groundwater sideways to emerge as springs', that 'these are just a few of the many scenarios that can make for a drainage pattern that is far more complicated than initial impressions suggest, particularly on dolerite hillslopes', hence 'the groundwater divide may not exactly coincide with the break of slope on the surface and water that infiltrates to the water table may end up seeping in a different direction to water that simply flows across the ground surface'

In other words, the entire system needs to be understood, and it needs to be known just where and by what means the water is supplied. A spring on Dublin Town Road may be fed from fractures with a recharge on the opposite side of the coupe. This knowledge has not been considered by Dr McIntosh in reaching the conclusion in his review.

9. Dr Mcintosh's 'Review of evidence' is not a review of evidence, because Dr McIntosh did not consider evidence, but rather advanced his own unqualified and unevidenced assertions.


1. Mr Rosevears was the Planning Coordinator for Forestry Tasmania of the coupe.

2. The emails between Dr Roberts and himself 4/11/04 in which she advised her lack of hydrogeological qualifications elicited only the response 'See how forestry in Tasmania broadens your horizons, takes you out of your comfort zone, always leaves you wondering what the hell they will think of next'. Mr Rosevears expressed no concern at the acknowledged lack of qualification by Dr Roberts in respect of the very area of concern that he had requested her to address, but proceeded to rely upon her advice in this matter as the basis for certifying that the plan addressed assessment and prescription for the protection of water from the impact of forest operations.

3. He also accepted without question the strategy proposed by Dr Roberts 10/11/04

'some sort of estimates in changes in forest water use is probably our best approach',

and that it was

'a ridiculous expectation (by Mineral Resources Tasmania that a long term study of the area would be the better approach to identify if there is a significant risk of groundwater impacts from forest operations) given that the results would only be applicable to the area under study and probably not useful for broader application'

4. He was involved in discussions with an Officer of the Forest Practices Board, Mr Chris Mitchell, to formulate a form of words to be placed in the Plan regarding groundwater.

A Forest Practices Plan Preparation and Variation Peer Review Form obtained under Freedom of Information shows on the cover page, in respect of the Question 'Is the operation within a town water catchment?', an annotation 'need a careful answer for groundwater. See PR'

An email 17/12/04 from Chris Mitchell to Paul Rosevears states;-

I agree under the circumstances it is best to record on the cover page 'no part of NI114A is within the direct water catchment of the bore' ... but to record in the Plan text 'that NI114A may be within the groundwater catchment of the bore'

The certified Plan states 'No part of NI114A is within the direct water catchment of the town water bore, but Peter McIntosh (FPB) has advised that it is possible that a very small proportion of the bore water may derive from NI114A'.

Mr Rosevears was aware that no scientific assessment had been made of the groundwater regime of the coupe that would allow that statement to be made. Dr McIntosh had no scientific evidence on which to base his advice.


The letter from Mr Steve Manson, District Forest Manager Bass, undated but received 8/12/04 clearly shows that completion of the Plan was conditional on 'the hydrology report for this coupe', that 'when we receive this advice we will complete the Forest Practices Plan'. Accordingly, the issues of lack of qualification and failure of due diligence go to the heart of the validity of this plan.

The Chief Forest Practices Officer, Mr G Wilkinson, advised 23rd December 2004

The Forest Practices Code contains provisions relating to the provision of water values. The Code takes a system or catchment approach to the management of water, recognising that groundwater and surface water in its various forms are interconnected and therefore have to be managed in an integrated manner.

He further stated that the Code does not set out to ensure that forestry operations have no impact on values such as groundwater, that the statutory purpose of the Code is to prescribe the manner in which forest practices shall be conducted so as to provide reasonable protection to the environment.

In view of the lack of qualification and failure of due diligence referred to above, the planning for this coupe failed to meet the requirements of the Code in respect of site assessment, so that prescriptions in the Plan for the protection of water falls far short of 'reasonable' protection, as no adequate information on the groundwater system of the coupe was obtained, collected, assessed or considered

Both Dr Roberts and Dr McIntosh have demonstrated that they have insufficient knowledge and understanding of the groundwater system of the coupe for their opinions on the water values of the coupe to have any scientific justification.


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