No consultation without information

As expected, yesterday’s consultations with the Port Authority of NSW project team broke down.

The Port Authority’s powerless public servants and consultants had no information to provide – the Berejiklian government has stamped everything pertaining to the project Cabinet-in-confidence or commercial-in-confidence.

The Port Authority project team just wanted to outline their consultation process going forward (which we already knew about from the very lightweight brochure they letter-boxed in neighbourhoods near Yarra Bay). It was an exercise in government subterfuge, a meeting to do nothing and reveal nothing and a complete waste of everyone’s time.

For over a year, the NSW government has ignored community requests for information that could lead to engagement. Meanwhile, they have forged ahead with detailed talks with their cruise ship industry clients. For example we know that they have shared information about the preliminary strategic business case with the cruise industry as part of a market sounding process.

Now, Port Authority staff have been delegated to ask for a community response – but are unwilling to accept that it is impossible for us to respond when they won’t outline what they are planning and are deliberately keeping us in the dark. The process is unfair, totally lacking in transparency and is rejected by the communities we represent.

Port Authority staff kept saying “We want to start a relationship with you.” We left them with this message:

“We don’t want a relationship. We want to stop this by showing you what a ridiculous, dangerous, environmentally and socially destructive proposal it is. We have no interest in a partnership with you that helps you to confuse and placate an angry community so you can get away with building your terminal.”

We brought the meeting to an end by stating our position:

“We cannot meet again until you release the information we have requested: your preliminary studies, the strategic business case and your plans for the terminal. Those documents will enable us to sit down with our committee of scientists, engineers and other experts to prepare an evidence-based response. For consultation to occur, you must treat us with the same respect you have accorded the foreign-owned cruise industry.”

The only glimmer of hope we took out of the meeting was the Port Authority senior manager’s admission that if the business case is not positive, it is possible the project will not proceed. WE WILL HOLD HIM TO THAT.

At the meeting, the community was represented by Maria Poulos, Peter Fagan, Cheryl Rennie, Derek Zilich (Save the Bay Coalition), Trevor Walker (Indigenous Representative), Stan Konstantaras (President, Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW), Barry Wallace (President, Yarra Bay Sailing Club). And we say thank you to many others for your contributions beforehand and your ongoing support.

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