The NSW Government plans to scrap the independent Snowy Scientific Committee (SSC), the only independent scientific body advising on environmental flows for the Snowy River and other rivers affected by the Snowy Scheme.
The NSW legislative assembly has passed a Bill to abolish the SSC and replace it with an advisory committee (with limited functions) controlled by the Minister for Primary Industries. The Bill will be voted on in the legislative council after parliament resumes on the 6th May 2014.
Environment Victoria has established a petition to help retain the SSC. Please sign the petition at http://environmentvictoria.org.au/savethesnowy asking NSW MPs to save the SSC.
The SSC was belatedly established in January 2008 and despite a serious lack of funding and support from the NSW Government it produced a series of invaluable public reports on the adequacy of environmental flows to the Snowy River. Its first three year term expired in May 2011 and despite government promises at the time has not been re-established.
Despite intergovernmental agreements in 2002 to return 28% to the Snowy below Jindabyne Dam and flows to the upper Snowy above Jindabyne the river is far from saved. The Snowy River in NSW is listed by the NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee as an endangered aquatic ecological community. You can view the entire report at: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/426308/Snowy-River-EEC-Final-Determination.pdf
In the 2014/15 water year the total annual allocation to the Snowy River below Jindabyne Dam will be less than 14% whilst the Snowy above Jindabyne Dam in Kosciusko National Park remains severely degraded.
The Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Amendment (Snowy Advisory Committee) Bill 2013 will replace the six member independent SSC with a Ministerial controlled advisory committee that:
- has no requirement for any scientific representatives
- will have a chair (& all the members) appointed by the Minister for Primary Industries not the Minister for Environment
- will have a greatly reduced role compared to the SSC advising only on the annual release regime of environmental water whereas the SSC was also required to advise on the adequacy of environmental flows, the programs for restoration of the rivers and catchments and provide an annual public state of environment report
- removes transparency and accountability from the $425 million taxpayers investment in Snowy River environmental flows
- will not have confidence of the Snowy communities or the general public
Last year Snowy Hydro Ltd (SHL) with a net profit of $280 million paid out $460 million in dividends to its three government shareholders. NSW with a 58% share of SHL benefited the most. Without the independent oversight of the SSC there is the potential that taxpayer funded environmental water may be diverted for the financial benefit of SHL and the NSW Government.
The restoration of the Snowy River depends on an adequately funded independent Snowy Scientific Committee.