Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary

08 Jun 2011 archivespeech

This speech is to make some remarks in relation to the motion of the Hon. Mark Parnell in relation to Arkaroola.

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. M.C. Parnell:

That this council—

1. Notes that it has been almost 40 months since the initial discovery of illegal waste disposal and vandalism by Marathon Resources in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary; and

2. Calls for the state government to urgently guarantee permanent protection for the iconic and majestic mountains of Arkaroola. (Continued from 18 May 2011.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:41): I rise to make some brief remarks in relation to the—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The people raising their cameras—

The Hon. R.I. Lucas: It's my phone.

The PRESIDENT: Put them away. They shouldn't be in the house anyway. Put them away. The Hon. Mr Lucas, put that down.

The Hon. R.I. Lucas: I will not. I'm just reading my text message.

The PRESIDENT: What, for the first time for 20 years? Put it away. You're being disgraceful. The Hon. Ms Lensink.

The Hon. R.I. Lucas: Just because the Hon. Mr Wortley's complaining about it does not mean we have to do anything about it. He might want to protect the Hon. Mr Finnigan.

The PRESIDENT: You're up to form. The Hon. Ms Lensink.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Ms Lensink. Do you want to talk or not?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I'll speak. I rise to make some remarks in relation to the motion of the Hon. Mark Parnell in relation to Arkaroola. Just by way of background, Marathon Resources has been undertaking uranium exploration in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary in the northern Flinders Ranges for several years. We are all aware that its licence was suspended in 2008 for waste that was illegally buried, in breach of their licence conditions.

In relation to the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, a number of Liberals went up there at the instigation of the member for Stuart last year (probably about 10 of us, including our leader, Isobel Redmond) and we had a very good look round. We are eternally grateful to the Sprigg family for their hospitality and for explaining to us the unique values of that particular part of our state.

As a result, we found the government's document, 'Seeking a balance'—and I am going to refer to certain documents are received under FOI in a moment—quite disturbing in that it sought to change the zoning of that area and, in fact, to water down the existing provisions that apply. Indeed, the environmental zone A protection that applies to that area states that mining should not take place unless the deposits are of paramount importance and their exploration is in the highest national or state interest that all other environmental and heritage matters can be overridden.

I think it is fair to say that my leader and I certainly share the view that, given there are some 30,000 tonnes of uranium oxide, potentially, at that site versus what is already a 2.5 million tonne deposit at Olympic Dam, it would be extremely unlikely that those national and state heritage and environmental interests would ever be overridden under those circumstances. Indeed, my colleague the Hon. David Ridgway has tabled a bill in this place, the Development (Principles of Development Control—Mining Operations—Flinders) Amendment Bill, which was tabled in November last year and which sought to ensure that the zoning which applies cannot be watered down.

The history since then is that a 12-month extension has been granted to Marathon on its exploration licence, as of December 2010, and we still are not sure whether any mining will be allowed within the sanctuary area. The minister stated that Marathon's exploration licence would be renewed for only one year and that this renewal 'would be subject to consultation on its stricter licence conditions'. As of February, Marathon announced that it was resuming exploration. The Premier has said that the conditional one-year exploration licence for Marathon Resources in no ways confers a right to mine, but we still are unsure what the government's intention is. The government has stated that it is continuing to consult with native title holders, pastoral leaseholders and holders of mineral exploration licences.

In relation to the zoning, I have been publicly very critical of the 'Seeking a balance' document because it has very little reference material. I think there was a landscape survey, which was basically to ask people which sort of view they preferred. I have no quarrel with that landscape survey; in fact, it was done by one of the Lothian family members, who understands his craft very, very well. However, it did not examine the issues of biodiversity and the potential damage and all those sorts of issues.

The Wilderness Advisory Committee's advice to government was that the whole area be zoned either zone 1 or zone 2A as a wildlife corridor. It did not support the proposed changes in 'Seeking a balance', and it described the approach outlined in 'Seeking a balance' as a fragmented zoning pattern which does not protect key environmental values. It also recommended a higher standard of protection, in the form of legislation, than is currently proposed in the 'Seeking a balance' draft policy document, and the Liberal Party's position certainly agrees with that.

With those remarks, I think the wording of this motion is quite slanted. I do understand where the honourable member is coming from, but I think he is pushing the envelope a little bit too far. In relation to Marathon Resources and his use of the word 'vandalism' in point 1, I think Marathon has well and truly been castigated for its actions, as it should have been, and I understand that a greater standard of our mining companies is required in this day and age. Because the wording of his motion is fairly biased, we do not want to enter into that side of the debate. However, I did want to restate what the Liberal Party's position is in relation to this, and we unfortunately will not be supporting the honourable member's motion.