SARDI desalination research disclosure request: Politicians’ responses trickle in

On February 28th, we sent a persoanlised version of our template letter to five South Australian government ministers, requesting the immediate release of tax-payer funded SARDI research into the environmental impact of the proposed desalination plant at Point Lowly. Our rationale was shared by regional Liberal politicians Dan van Holst Pellekaan, Peter Treloar and Steven Griffiths. We stand in agreement that tax-payers of South Australia have funded the research, and its findings relate to a matter of large-scale and often-expressed public concern. We sent our letters to Ministers Caica, Koutsantonis, Foley, Weatherill and Premier Rann, and to date have received only two replies.

Firstly, Caica’s office acknowledged receipt of our letter, and forwarded the letter to Minister Foley, suggesting that it was Foley’s responsibility, not Caica’s. I replied to his office asking for confirmation that he had read the letter, and have had no further reply. We find it hard to believe that Minister Caica, whose portfolios include Water, Environment and Conservation should be able to deflect such a request towards another minister, thus shirking responsibility for what is principally an environmental matter.

Foley’s office responded today, with a letter acknowledgement, as follows:

Dear Mr Monceaux

The Hon Kevin Foley MP, Minister Assisting the Premier with the Olympic Dam Expansion Project, has asked me to thank you for your letter of 28 September 2011, regarding BHP Billiton’s proposed desalination plant at Port Bonython.

The matters you have raised are currently being considered.

We take Minister Foley’s ambiguous response as an open invitation for the concerned public to send further copies of our customisable template letter to urge for this document’s disclosure. The Olympic Dam mine expansion received environmental approval from both State and Federal Governments yesterday, and the desalination plant will be proceeding at Point Lowly unless we continue to raise the volume of public pressure. Everyone knows that Point Lowly cannot be legitimately considered to be the best location for a desalination plant in regards to environmental impact, while equivalent biological surveys and studies have not been conducted outside of Upper Spencer Gulf. If you haven’t already signed and shared our petition to relocate the desalination plant, please do so. We are aiming for 5000 signatures as quickly as possible, and the petition has already attracted support from 64 nations.


Dan Monceaux is a South Australian documentary filmmaker and the director of Cuttlefish Country.

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