Lake Pedder Committee of Enquiry

Interim Report

The Future of Lake Pedder

1Introduction8
2The Flooding of Lake Pedder8
3The Decision-Making Process11
4The Case for Restoring Lake Pedder12
General12
4.1.National Park15
4.2.Wilderness15
4.3.Scientific17
4.4.Beauty17
4.5.Community Environmental Attitudes18
5The Case for Retaining the Present Scheme18
6Posible Modifications to the Present Scheme19
7The Moratorium Proposal20
7.1.TheProposal20
7.2.Power Supply and Demand20
7.3.Cost of Moratorium Proposal25
8Edimated Cost of Modification26
9Could the Cost of Restoring the Lake he Justified?26
10Who Should Pay?27
11Summary27
12Appendices28
I Terms of Reference
II Cost of Moratorium
II Details of Location of Lake Pedder and other Features referred to in the text.
13Figures
1General location of area under discussion9
2Three-dimensional representation of Middle Gordon Scheme (from "Pedder Papers")10
3Development of the boundaries of the Lake Pedder Scenic Reserve.13
4South east Australia: Wilderness areas -(areas more than three miles from the road.)14
5Base camp areas in the south west. Arrows indicate excursion routes from base camps.16
6Suggested modifications to the Middle Gordon Scheme using canals (from "Pedder Papers")21
7Suggested modification to the Middle Gordon Scheme not involving canal construction. (after "Pedder Papers")22
8Energy demand and system capacity.24

Annexure -Reasons of MI Edward

St.John.Q.C. 31

1. Introduction

On 23 February 1973 a Committee was appointed by The Hen. Moss Cass, Australian Minister for the Environment and Conservation, to provide him with information concerning the circumstances leading to the flooding of Lake Pedder and to advise him on this and future development projects. The Committee was constituted as follows:

Professor J.R. Burton, Chairman (Professor of Natural Resources, University of New England)

Mr D.G. Hill, (Consulting Engineer)

Mr Edward St John, Q.C. (Company Director)

Dr W.D. Williams (Reader in Zoology, Monash University)

The Committee's Terms of Reference are given in Appendix 1.

The purpose of the present report is to deal with matter arising from the second Term of Reference, which reads:

"To suggest what action, if any, might be taken to alleviate, or compensate for, any adverse consequence which may be considered to have arisen from the flooding of Lake Pedder."

This report deals with only one adverse consequence -the actual loss of Lake Pedder. We believe that a separate consideration of this matter is appropriate because any political decision concerning the future of the lake and involving a reversal of policy will be most meaningful during the next few months. There is thus some urgency for the presentation of the Committee's findings on this matter.

This urgency dictates not only the separate presentation of this interim Report, but also its brevity. Here we are concerned to provide only such information as is directly relevant to a proper judgement on the future of the lake. Other matters of interest but not directly relevant, and several relevant matters considered here only briefly, will be discussed in the main Report.

Details of the Committee's operation will also be given later. Suffice it to note that the Committee held public hearings in Hobart and Melbourne, at which individual witnesses and organisations presented submissions. Letters and documentary submissions have been received from other people and organisations. Information and opinions were also presented in camera by a number of people but no findings have been based on such material except where separate verification was available. It is to be noted that the Committee had no power to administer an oath, nor to compel witnesses or the production of documents.

The Committee had hoped to have the full cooperation of the Government of Tasmania and the Hydro-Electric Commission (hereafter referred to as "The Commission" or "HEC"). The Commission did provide the opportunity for Committee members to visit the Lake Pedder area and inspect the various works and Mr Russell Ashton, Assistant to the Commissioner, attended our public hearings, was supplied with copies of all written submissions and transcripts of evidence, and availed himself of the opportunity to ask questions of witnesses. However, following exchanges between the Premier and the Australian Government, which were published, the Premier finally announced that his Government would not cooperate further in the Enquiry and, after some days. the Commission followed suit, except that it undertook to provide a detailed historical statement.

We regret these decisions. Nevertheless, the Committee feels that it has sufficient information and evidence to deal adequately and with assurance with questions arising at this stage.

In order to convey a full appreciation of the reasons for flooding Lake Pedder, and to place into perspective the suggestions which could alleviate, or compensate for, it, this Report discusses and comments on the following:

the scheme which caused the flooding of Lake Pedder;

the decision-making process;

the case for saving the Lake and that for retaining the present scheme unaltered;

alternative schemes which would restore Lake Pedder to something approaching its former state;

a proposal for a moratorium;

an estimate of costs for an alternative scheme;

the questions as to who should pay the costs of any alteration to the present scheme and whether the value of the lake justifies the cost

Finally, there is an expression of the Committee's opinion on the central question: what action, if any, should be taken with regard to the future of Lake Pedder?

Mr St John, a Member of this Committee, whilst agreeing with this joint Report, which he assisted in drafting, desires to contribute also a separate statement as to his own reasons as he would wish to express them, such statement to be presented as an annexure to this joint Report. The other members of the Committee readily concurred with Mr St John's request, believing that there may be value in a separate expression of certain aspects of the matter, arriving at the same conclusions for reasons stated in different terms, and from a somewhat different point of view.

2. The Flooding of Lake Pedder

Figure 1 indicates the general location of the area under discussion in this Report. A map (Appendix III) at the very end shows in more detail the location of Lake Pedder and other features referred to.

Lake Pedder was flooded as part of the Gordon River Power Development Stage One, commonly known as the Middle Gordon Scheme. This development involves three rivers, the Gordon, Serpentine and Huon. Lake Pedder lies in the valley of the Serpentine, which is a tributary of the Gordon, a river that flows westward to the sea. The Huon flows east to the sea and its headwaters are adjacent to those of the Serpentine.

The average flows from each river and the relative contributions of each are:

Flow Share

Gordon 2094 cusec 60 percent

Serpentine 979 28

Huon 446 12

Total 3519 100

Development of the scheme involves: (see also Fig. 2)

1. Damming the Serpentine and thus inundating Lake Pedder.

2. Damming the Huon at Scotts Peak. The Huon waters rise behind this dam and overflow into the Serpentine valley.

3. The joined Serpentine/Hoon impoundment rises further until it reaches a level (SL 1007) when water can pass through a canal at

9.jpg

10.jpg

McPartlan Pass into the Gordon impoundment.

4. At about the time the Serpentine/Huon water becomes available, the Gordon dam will be closed and the waters of all three rivers will proceed to fill the Gordon impoundment.

5. When the water in the Gordon impoundment has reached operating levels, and depending on power requirements, water will be passed through an underground power station into the lower Gordon River.

The public controversy over the scheme has focused on Lake Pedder and its inundation by the Serpentine/Huon impoundment. No representations were made to us that the northern part of the scheme, the Gordon impoundment, should be modified in any way, or its construction delayed. This impoundment provides virtually all the scheme's storage and 60 per cent of the water flow. The modifications proposed with a view to restoring Lake Pedder affect the availability of the waters of the Serpentine and the Huon 12 per cent of the scheme's water in the case of the Huon alone and 40 per cent for both the Huon and the Serpentine. A delay in the availability of these waters would slow the filling of the Gordon impoundment.

Timings for the various stages of the scheme are:

(a) The Serpentine dam was closed in December 1971.

(b) The Scotts Peak dam was closed on 7 June 1972.

(c) It is impracticable to nominate a date for the "flooding" of Lake Pedder. In general terms, the lake rose to its winter level in 1972 and has continued to rise since, as the Serpentine impoundment filled.

(d) The Serpentine and Huon impoundments met in March/April 1973 at about the time this Committee was holding its initial hearings in Tasmania.

(e) It is anticipated that the Serpentine/Huon will reach SL1007, the level at which diversion to Lake Gordon may commence, by April 1974 The Gordon dam will be closed at about this time.

(f) The first generator is expected to be available for service in mid-1976. At that time, Lake Gordon will be above its minimum operation level but not yet at its mean operating level.

(g) With no draw-off for power generation, Lake Gordon is expected to reach its mean operating level by April 1977.

3. The Decision-Making Process

A subsequent report will examine in detail the history of the decision-making process for the Middle Gordon Scheme with the aim of drawing lessons appropriate to future schemes involving the Australian Government.

In this report we deal with the decision making process only insofar as it is necessary to examine the claims of witnesses that the process as implemented in this case had some weaknesses.

The various criticisms made fall into two main areas:

1. the organisational structure for the process of decision-making was faulty;

2. there were attempts to limit public knowledge and foreclose discussion of the proposal to flood

Lake Pedder.

With regard to the first area of criticism, it was suggested to us that the only matters considered fully in the decision-making process were those relating to engineering or economics. Other matters, it was alleged, were considered inadequately or not at all; if considered, they had values given them by a body, the HEC, which was not competent to assess them and, in any event, perhaps predisposed to under-assess them.

Three aspects in particular were regarded as having been inadequately considered and undervalued: the value of the area as a National Park, the scientific value of the lake, and aesthetic values.

Concerning the National Park, we note that Lake Pedder was a central part of a scenic reserve named the Lake Pedder National Park. The National Parks and Wildlife Service was not created until 1971, after the decision to flood Lake Pedder had been made. Its predecessor, the Scenery Preservation Board, appears to have had little effective power and to have taken no part in the decision to flood Lake Pedder. Thus, it does appear that National Park interests were inadequately represented.

On the scientific side, it was suggested that the area is of high interest but there was no organisation to present the scientific case for retention of the lake. Tasmania has no Government Botanist, a lack criticised by several scientist witnesses. The HEC did commission a biological survey of the area by a team from the two Tasmanian museums. However, this team did not include specialists in the study of lakes -who were available and it had only a limited time to do its job. The wealth of subsequent discoveries by independent investigations certainly shows that the biological survey was inadequate, supporting the contention that the interests of science were not adequately represented.

The third area in which, it is claimed, values were inadequately considered is aesthetics. Various overseas countries have established an effective organisation whose purpose is to represent the interests of scenery in the review of development plans. In England and Wales the Countryside Commission has this statutory task. Australia, both at Commonwealth and State levels, lacks effective bodies in this field. Tasmania led the field in Australia with its Scenery Preservation Board established by an Act of 1915, but, as noted, this Board took no part in the process leading to the decision to flood Pedder, nor did it undertake any evaluation of the decision.

A further criticism of the organisational structure for the decision-making process involved the review of the decision by the Tasmanian Parliament including a specially appointed Select Committee of the Legislative Council. Although it was accepted that a review by a Select Committee is much better than no review at all, it was noted that:

1. the Select Committee lacked the technical expertise and guidelines which an established review organisation might be expected to have;

2. the recommendation concerning the Middle Gordon Scheme was accepted by the House of Assembly before the Select Committee actually reported;

3. not all the recommendations of the Select Committee were implemented.

It is not our intention, in this Report, to suggest what organisational structure might have been more appropriate. It appears sufficient, now, to note that some witnesses suggested that the organisation was such as to allow doubts that it would produce a properly balanced decision.

We accept that there are grounds for such doubts.

The second criticism of the decision-making process was that there were attempts to limit public knowledge and foreclose public discussion of the proposal to flood Lake Pedder.

Several examples were advanced to support this criticism; for present purposes, two examples will suffice. In the first place, there appears to have been considerable reluctance to disclose the possibility that the lake might be flooded. Thus, in 1961, when the HEC was well involved in investigations in the Gordon area, the HEC Commissioner stated "..... the possibility of power development in this area in the foreseeable future is remote".

In 1962 possible alternative schemes were developed, including some which involved flooding Lake Pedder. It would have been quite feasible at that stage to have opened this possibility for public discussion, in view of the importance of the lake, as recognised by its having been declared a scenic reserve. Public interest was certainly shown by the formation of the South-West Committee in late 1962. By 1962 the finally adopted scheme was emerging as the most favoured arrangement.

Over the period to 1965 the Government was reluctant to disclose information before the proposals had assumed their final shape. Then, on 21 June 1965, the Premier issued a statement including "..... there would be some modification of the Lake Pedder National Park" but gave no details, and said nothing to indicate that the lake itself would be affected. By September 1966 the internal HEC report on the scheme was completed, making the final choice of the preferred scheme. The HEC report on the scheme was presented to the Minister on 1 May 1967 and tabled in Parliament on 25 May 1967, thus finally becoming public.

Secondly, information was apparently withheld on alternative schemes which did not involve flooding Lake Pedder. The Select Committee was established on 13 June 1967. The Bill was introduced into the House of Assembly on 22 June 1967 and passed on 29 June 1967. There is no Hansard record but newspaper reports of the debate suggested that the Government said that the only alternative which would avoid flooding Pedder was that which involved foregoing the use of the water of both the Serpentine and the Huon. In fact, other less drastic alternatives had been studied. These were later divulged by the HEC to the Select Committee, which met in camera, late in its hearings and the Select Committee reported on 22 August 1967. With the publication of the Select Committee report, the public became aware, for the first time, of these alternatives. Two days later, before there was any possibility of effective public discussion on these alternatives, the Bill passed the Legislative Council. The Select Committee noted in its report:

"If for example, after submitting its report to he Minister, the Commission had made public derails of its investigations into an alternative scheme designed to avoid flooding Lake Pedder which for various reasons had to be rejected, a great deal of he present resentment may have been avoided.

The Committee itself did not become aware that his alternative scheme had been considered by the Commission until late in its enquiries and points out that earlier evidence of it would have facilitated its work."

This Committee. therefore, generally accepts that the decision-making process which led to the decision to flood Lake Pedder had weaknesses.


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