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Publications archive - Annual reports

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Supervising Scientist Annual Report 2000-01

Environment Australia, 2001
ISSN 1441-9335

7 Administrative arrangements

7.1 Organisational structure and staffing

The Supervising Scientist is a statutory position created under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978. The position of Supervising Scientist has been held by Dr Arthur Johnston since June 1999. The Supervising Scientist Division, is made up of the Office of the Supervising Scientist (oss) and the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist (eriss), and is part of Environment Australia. The Assistant Secretary of the oss, based in Darwin, is Mr Alex Zapantis. The Director of eriss is Dr Max Finlayson. eriss has an office in Darwin with laboratories located in Jabiru. The Supervising Scientist Division also has some support staff based in the Canberra office of Environment Australia.

The eriss programme structure was reviewed in May 2001 and a revised structure will be implemented in 2001-02. In this restructure, the Environmental Impact of Mining and Wetland Ecology and Conservation programmes will be integrated.

The organisational structure of the Supervising Scientist Division as of June 2001 is shown in figure 7.1. Staffing numbers, locations and expenditure for 2000-01 are given in table 7.1.

Figure 7.1 Organisational structure of the Supervising Scientist Division

Figure 7.1 Organisational structure of the Supervising Scientist Division


Table 7.1 Staffing numbers, locations and resources
Actual Expenses (2000-2001) $8.449 million
PBS Output Group
1.1.10 $0.769 million
1.4.7 $0.439 million
1.5.6 $0.914 million
1.6.4 $0.902 million
1.7.3 $5.425 million
Actual staff (as at 30 June 2001)
Canberra 2
Darwin 20
Jabiru 27
Total 49

7.2 Legislative and institutional arrangements relating to uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region

7.2.1 Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee

The Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee (ARRAC) was established under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 to facilitate communication between community, government and industry stakeholders. The Committee is a forum for exchange of information and policy consultation on environmental issues associated with uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region.

ARRAC met twice in 2000-01 on 2 August 2000 and 12 December 2000 following the Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs) of Ranger, Nabarlek and Jabiluka. These meetings provided opportunities for stakeholders to review reports from the Supervising Scientist, the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy, other agencies and ERA. They also provided fora for environmental non-government organisations to raise issues of concern. The meetings considered:

7.2.2 Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee

The Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee (ARRTC), established under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978, underwent significant change during 2000-01. For much of the year, ARRTC functioned as it had previously. Under the Act, ARRTC meets annually to examine the research needs of the region, recommend research programmes, and examine methods for the efficient coordination and integration of research. However, late in the year, the function and membership of the Committee was revised to implement the recommendations from the review of the Jabiluka project by the Independent Science Panel (ISP) of the International Council of Science Unions.

The seventh meeting of ARRTC was held on 11 December 2000 and considered a range of issues. The assessment by the ISP and the outcomes of the World Heritage Committee meeting in Cairns raised several issues for the committee including:

The Committee reviewed eriss research activities over the previous year and the priorities and work plans for the Environmental Radioactivity, Ecosystem Protection and Erosion and Hydrology research programmes. The Committee also examined the environmental research and development priorities for ERA. These included:

Other topics discussed at the meeting included the review of revegetation at Nabarlek, the relocation of eriss and the outcomes of Environmental Performance Reviews. The Committee provided recommendations from this meeting to the Minister for Environment and Heritage about the composition of the revised ARRTC and the range of technical expertise required.

During the year, the membership and role of ARRTC was amended to meet the recommendations of the ISP. Consistent with the functions set out in the EP(ARR) Act, the revised ARRTC aims to ensure that the quality of the science used in the research into, and assessment of, the protection of the environment from the impact of uranium mining is of an appropriately high standard. The Committee will be able to report openly, independently and without restriction, and may also make recommendations to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage on the nature and extent of research necessary to protect the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region and the most appropriate bodies to undertake that research. It will also assess, and make recommendations to the Supervising Scientist on best scientific practice in the assessment of environmental impacts arising from uranium mining activities.

The revised Committee now comprises:

The members nominated by FASTS provide technical expertise in the following fields:

ARRTC will be chaired independently by one of the FASTS nominees. The first meeting of the revised committee will be in 2001-02.

7.2.3 Interpretation of Ranger Environmental Requirements

Section 19.2 of the Environmental Requirements of the Commonwealth of Australia for the Operation of the Ranger Uranium Mine provides for the publication of explanatory material agreed to by the major stakeholders to assist in the interpretation of provisions of the Environmental Requirements.

Explanatory material published by the Supervising Scientist during 2000-01 addressed Ranger Environmental Requirement 12 which relates to the application of Best Practicable Technology to the minesite (see Appendix 1).

7.2.4 Ministerial Directions

There were no ministerial directions issued to the Supervising Scientist under section 7 of the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 in 2000-01.

The Uranium Mining (Environment Control) Act 1979 provides for the Northern Territory Minister to direct the mining company to undertake specific practices. There were no ministerial directions issued in 2000-01.

7.2.5 Reporting of mine events and monitoring results

In a Memorandum of Understanding between the Commonwealth Government and the Northern Territory Government, the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy requires mining companies to notify the Supervising Scientist, Northern Land Council and Department of Industry, Science and Resources immediately of any events or incidents having the potential to cause:

There were no reportable incidents at either Ranger or Jabiluka during the reporting period.

All monitoring programmes and related data reports required under the Ranger General Authorisation, issued under the Northern Territory Uranium Mining (Environment Control) Act 1979, are copied to the Supervising Scientist for independent assessment. This includes monitoring data from the Ranger mine and the Jabiluka site. Other information is monitored at intervals ranging from daily to annually, depending on its environmental significance, the risk of rapid change and the potential for adverse environmental impact. The Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy undertakes a check monitoring programme which is reported formally every six months, and also reviewed by the Supervising Scientist. The Supervising Scientist reports annually to Parliament, twice yearly to the Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee and may prepare ad hoc reports on significant events.

7.2.6 Strengthening the role of the Commonwealth

Northern Territory and Commonwealth Agreement

An important commitment made to the World Heritage Committee in Paris, in July 1999, was that the security of environmental management at the Ranger and Jabiluka mines would be further improved by amending the legal regime governing enforcement of environmental conditions to strengthen the role of the national government. The instrument to give effect to this commitment was an Agreement between the Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments. The Agreement was signed by the Hon Daryl Manzie, Northern Territory Minister for Resource Development, and Senator the Hon Nick Minchin, Commonwealth Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, on 17 November 2000.

The Northern Territory Minister for Resource Development is now required before granting or varying an Authorisation under the Uranium Mining (Environment Control) Act 1979 (UMEC) to refer the matter to the Supervising Scientist for comment. Furthermore, the Territory Minister shall not act until that comment is received. Where the Supervising Scientist has referred the matter to the Commonwealth Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, the Territory Minister must act in accordance with the advice of the Commonwealth Minister.

Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations

The Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations have been amended to strengthen the control over export of uranium by the Commonwealth.

The Customs (Prohibited Exports) Amendment Regulations 2000 provides for the application of conditions to export licenses which must be met before or after (as applicable) the export occurs. This provides the Commonwealth with a clear and administratively efficient mechanism by which it can place legally binding conditions directly on uranium mining companies.

The amendments to the regulations further support the commitment made to the World Heritage Committee to 'strengthen the role of the National government' by amending the legal regime governing enforcement of environmental conditions.

7.3 Information services

7.3.1 Reporting and publications

Results of research and investigations undertaken by the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist (eriss) and the Office of the Supervising Scientist (oss) are disseminated by publications in external journals and in-house reports. During 2000-01, 7 reports were published in the Supervising Scientist Report series, 35 Internal Reports were produced, 15 papers were published in the scientific literature and 26 national and international conference/workshop presentations were given. In addition, a number of public information publications including the first Supervising Scientist Note were produced.

The new Supervising Scientist Division website www.ea.gov.au/ssd was completed and incorporated into the Department's new site at the end of June 2001.

In its initial stage, the site comprises about 250 new web pages, including online abstracts of all the Supervising Scientist Report series and other Supervising Scientist Division publications. Full versions of the eriss note series and the Supervising Scientist Note series are also available online.

7.3.2 Library

The Supervising Scientist Division Library is located at the eriss site in Jabiru and provides services to staff based in Jabiru and Darwin. The library is open to the public by appointment.

The subject matter of the collection reflects the research interests of the Supervising Scientist. The collection includes 11 500 books, reports and audio-visual items (250 were added in 2000-01), and scientific journals (66 current subscriptions).

The library in-house database, ARRI, dedicated to material published on the Alligator Rivers Region, now contains: 3000 records, a database of other scientific papers relevant to the work of the Supervising Scientist Division and a collection of newspaper clippings.

7.3.3 Information management

An Intranet has been implemented for the Supervising Scientist Division to alleviate some of the difficulties of staff working at different locations. Negotiations are underway for implementing a corporate data management system for scientific and other related data.

7.4 Corporate Services

7.4.1 New Environment Australia facility for Darwin

The Office of the Supervising Scientist (oss), Parks Australia North (Darwin), the nctwr, and most of the staff of eriss are to relocate to a single Environment Australia office and laboratory complex in Darwin in early 2002. A small number of technical staff will remain in Jabiru.

The site for the new facility has been selected in an area adjacent to the Darwin International Airport. Negotiations about construction and leasing of the new facility were finalised during the year. A Heads of Agreement was signed by the Department and the developer, Darwin International Airport, on 11 May 2001 to provide a suitable building that will be leased by the Commonwealth for a ten year period.

In the near future, Darwin International Airport will be developing a work programme for the construction of the facility to clarify the timeframe. It is expected that the facility should be available from May 2002.

7.4.2 Investors in People

The Supervising Scientist Division is committed to achieving the Investors in People standard for people management. During 2000-01, an action plan was developed and substantially implemented. The plan aimed to improve strategic planning and work planning methods, the induction programme for new staff, internal communication practices, staff learning and development, and feedback and recognition of staff contribution.

7.4.3 Market testing

The Supervising Scientist Division's Support Unit has been involved in Environment Australia's Corporate Services market testing programme. Due to the difficulties in developing a generic specification of divisional support services, a consultant has been appointed to independently and separately review the divisional support units with a view to providing a base for the later market testing of these services. The review has commenced and the Division has been actively involved in providing information to the consultant with a report due for completion in August 2001.

7.5 Ecologically Sustainable Development

7.5.1 Ecologically Sustainable Development reporting under Section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 provides requirements for reporting on the implementation of the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) by Commonwealth bodies.

During 2000-01, the Supervising Scientist Division sought to implement the principles of ESD through its functions under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978, ie to protect the region from the environmental effects of uranium mining activities. Actions taken to implement ESD principles included:

Actions taken by the Supervising Scientist Division to minimise its impact on the environment included the selection process for the new Darwin facility to be built in 2001-02 that incorporated ESD principles, particularly the wise use of resources and energy efficiency.