Rann’s cuttlefish protester to promote conservation and expose negligence with documentary film

At the South Australian Film Corporation’s ‘Adelaide Studios’ gala opening last night, documentary filmmaker Dan Monceaux, with the support of Adelaide comedian Seb Carboncini, staged a cunningly crafted surprise protest to draw attention to grand-scale environmental negligence being committed by Mike Rann and his Government. The approval on October 10th of a 280 megalitre desalination plant at Point Lowly serves as a demonstration of the SA Government and BHP Billiton’s belligerence and combined disregard for the principles of ecologically sustainable development.

During former South Australian State Premier Mike Rann’s final public address, Monceaux presented Rann with a home-made Giant Australian Cuttlefish pinata. When Rann declined the offer to ‘give it a whack’, Carboncini (wearing a mask of Rann, rendered as a demon) whacked the cuttlefish to its death. Monceaux then cried out “the last cuttlefish… destroyed by Mike Rann!”

Their demonstration hopes to remind South Australians of the potential for the extermination of the Giant Australian Cuttlefish as a casualty of a recently approved desalination plant. Proposed to serve BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine expansion, it will introduce pollution into waters which stands to be declared a Marine Park in 2012. Premier Rann and Minister Foley (both retired October 20) have refused to enact the Precautionary Principle despite expert scientists failing to reach agreement over the plant’s environmental impact. The worst case scenario, suggested by the research findings of oceanographer Jochen Kaempf and Marine Biologist Dr Bronwyn Gillanders suggests total mortality of eggs is possible- a knock-out punch since both male and female animals die after mating and laying.

“The only way to truly prevent risk to the marine environment in Upper Spencer Gulf is to locate the desalination plant elsewhere. It will cost BHP Billiton an extra $500 million or so, yes, but what price can you put on a globally unique wildlife phenomenon like the cuttlefish aggregation?” asks Monceaux. “Considering BHP Billiton’s profit last year was $22.5 billion, we reckon they can afford to do the right thing. What’s missing is South Australian politicians’ desire to make it happen.”

“BHP Billiton must commission biological surveys of West Coast Eyre Peninsula locations, determine the site of lowest environmental impact, and proceed with the development there. The Roxby Downs Indenture Act provides BHP Billiton with enough absurd legal privileges as it is. Permitting a desalination plant among the Upper Spencer Gulf’s critical fish nurseries is unconscionable, and I won’t let it happen.”

While Monceaux’s plea comes after State and Federal approval of the desalination plant, he remains optimistic. His film ‘Cuttlefish Country’ will raise international awareness through the international film festival circuit and on foreign television after its pending release. It will also turn the world’s gaze upon the decision makers determining the future sustainability of South Australia. Monceaux also has a petition to relocate the plant which has attracted over 2600 signatures from 64 nations since August. A Twitter campaign @SaveCuttlefish is also rapidly growing and many of the film’s interviews are on Youtube to watch.

The emerging documentary filmmaker cites filmmaker Rick O’Barry’s ‘The Cove’ as an inspiration.

“That film has drawn the world’s attention to the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, just as our film will draw attention to the environmental negligence of South Australian politicians and the mining sector. While the film’s still in production, these parties have an opportunity to clean up their act and improve their public image. Else they can behave as they have traditionally and bury themselves in a future PR nightmare.”

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

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