Australians for Animals say an inquiry is needed at Gladstone Harbour.
Australians for Animals say an inquiry is needed at Gladstone Harbour. Mara Pattison-Sowden

Three experts left out of harbour investigation

A PANEL set up to investigate problems on a bund wall in Gladstone harbour failed to interview at least three key experts who publicly raised concerns about the project before the review began.

Chaired by CSIRO executive Dr Andrew Johnson, the independent panel reported in May this year with recommendations which the government is yet to respond to.

And despite limited terms of reference preventing investigation of wider issues on the Western Basin dredging project, the panel did propose several ways to improve the management of future projects.

However, APN has obtained a list of witnesses the panel met with during its review, which does not include three key experts who worked on the project.

The list, revealed in a Freedom of Information application by environmental group Australians for Animals, shows staff from the State Government and Gladstone Ports Corporation were interviewed.

But it also confirms that scientist John Broomhead, engineer Bill Service and geotextile specialist Warren Hornsey - who all publicly raised concerns before the review began - were not interviewed during the inquiry.

"It was me who believed that it (the project) needed a proper inquiry," Mr Broomhead said.

"But they never really hold an inquiry with everyone involved, they only hold an inquiry just to shut it (the debate) down and that's what they've done."

Mr Hornsey said he was "quite surprised" that he was never contacted, despite having raised the bund wall failings in a public presentation to an engineer's conference with Mr Service last year.

"Yes, I thought they might have asked for our opinion, we were the two people that were on site and did inspections of it (the bund wall)," Mr Hornsey said.

"I didn't even know that (we could provide submissions) - I've never been involved in a government inquiry like this."

A statement from Dr Johnson said the panel was "mandated to seek submission from stakeholders"; despite failing to contact or interview the three key potential witnesses.

He said the panel met with some people "where they felt submissions required further explanation or had additional questions".

Despite not interviewing the three men, the presentation by Mr Hornsey and Mr Service about the bund wall was taken into account by an investigation by engineer Dr Peter Cummings.

However, he has previously told APN he was not allowed to interview the GPC staff and in completing his review had to rely only on selected documents.

Dr Johnson said the panel did not have the mandate to "hold public hearings or to compel witnesses to give evidence", despite being "widely publicised" to attract public submissions.

While Mr Hunt ordered the review, a statement from his office said that "who the panel interview(ed) is a matter for the panel".

- APN NEWSDESK



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