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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

GHD, the Byron bypass, and costly FOIs

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Aslan Shand

Byron Shire Council (BSC) have responded to concerns over the use of GHD as the contractors working on Byron Shire Council’s referral to the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy (DoEE).

Last week Stop Adani Byron Shire highlighted that the council had passed a resolution in November 2017 that stated they would no longer contract companies that were involved with the Adani Carmichael coal mine.

A Council spokesperson told The Echo that, ‘Council’s view is that the preparation of the referral to the DoEE by consultants GHD was not a new service but an extension of their engagement for the Environmental Assessment of the Bypass Project.

‘The engagement included a range of assessments which also included the consideration of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Referral to the DoEE was not considered necessary in the first instance, but due to recent representations to DoEE and outcomes, and findings associated with compliance with the project consent conditions, stage 2 of the project has now been referred.’

FOI not free

The Byron Environment Centre (BEC) has been seeking documents from Byron Shire Council on the Byron bypass, their processes and decision making. Last week The Echo reported that the council had informed the BEC that their GIPA (Freedom of Information) request would cost over $20,000. Since then the Council and BEC have worked to narrow the terms of the GIPA, however, it is still thousands of dollars.

Responding to the refined request Council told BEC president John Lazarus that the ‘application satisfies the criteria of being of special interest to the public.’ As a result Council will give BEC a 50 per cent discount on the revised cost of $4,722.50 reducing it to $2,361.25. 

‘One would hope that the BSC would be more open and transparent about what is going on with the bypass process, particularly the biodiversity values,’ said former Mayor, Jan Barham.


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7 COMMENTS

  1. Council spin. Adani contractor GHD did the original false assessment (“unlikely to have impacts”). The BEC employed the Environmental Defenders Office solicitors to raise the Issue with the Federal Govt (with the BEC paying the EDO an EDO subsidised $550, discounted from $3,850). The Feds then obliged Council to do a NEW Assessment, and Council then went to GHD to do a NEW Assessment, which involved the BEC applying for access to docs used by the NEW Assessment (at the now cost of $2361) I.E. Council is paying GHD for a NEW Assessment, while the community, and community support organisations, have to pay to get Council to fullfill its legal obligations and pay to get the data that the NEW Assessment is using (community cost to date $6211). Council you need to adjust your facade – your lack of community/environmental priorities is showing

  2. Sounds like a deliberate strategy to restrict information, a common occurrence these days. Council should be going out of its way to provide information in keeping with the spirit of the 2009 Act:
    Section 3 Object of Act
    (1) In order to maintain and advance a system of responsible and representative democratic Government that is open, accountable, fair and effective, the object of this Act is to open government information to the public by:
    (a) authorising and encouraging the proactive public release of government information by agencies, and
    (b) giving members of the public an enforceable right to access government information, and
    (c) providing that access to government information is restricted only when there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
    (2) It is the intention of Parliament:
    (a) that this Act be interpreted and applied so as to further the object of this Act, and
    (b) that the discretions conferred by this Act be exercised, as far as possible, so as to facilitate and encourage, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost, access to government information.

    Dr Richard Gates
    President
    Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee Inc.

    • We have the typical conservative intro Richard without telling what GHD is.
      The writer seems to think that if Byron Council responds that is some sort of news of the century.
      “Byron Shire Council (BSC) have responded to concerns over the use of GHD as the contractors working on Byron Shire Council’s referral to the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy (DoEE).”

  3. It is telling of Ms Barnham’s approach to Shire management that she thinks ratepayers’ money ought to be spent on providing the work needed to collect information for a GIPA request, and on the additional work that would be needed to engage another company less familiar with the work.

  4. GHD had it’s chance. They could not locate any species when they reported to Council not to refer the matter to the Commonwealth as is required by law. Byron Shire and the mayor were told on numerous occasions that they need to refer the bypass under the EPBC Act,

    The fact that myself with a consulting ecologist located the extremely rare Mitchell rainforest snail within half an hour shows [how] GHD undertake ecological assessments.

    Anyway Byron Shire’s insistence to use this particular company , who are costing ratepayers, got a result which would favour the Bypass to continue it’s trail of destruction. At the end of the day it only opens up Council to a Federal Court challenge if GHD are shown to be biased ( I mean they are the go to ecologists for Adani). If this was a cynical ploy it may then blow up in their faces.

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