Engineers welcome inquiry into Gladstone dredging

AUSTRALIA'S engineering profession is the latest group to welcome a federal Commission of Inquiry into a massive dredging project in Gladstone Harbour.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt earlier this week announced the inquiry would look into the environmental management of the harbour at the time, among other issues.

While Mr Hunt is yet to release the terms of reference for the inquiry, it is likely to examine both scientific and engineering issues, as well as political and professional links between harbour management and government regulators.

The outbreak coincided with a leaking bund wall on the Western Basin dredging project, with a series of media reports in recent months questioning the oversight and environmental management of the harbour.

While the port authority, Gladstone Ports Corporation, has admitted the bund wall suffered from "porosity", it has denied any allegations of a "cover-up" or failures to complete its regulatory obligations.

Engineers Australia Queensland president Blake Harvey this week welcomed the inquiry, saying he hoped it would provide an "impartial view on the design and operation of the bund wall" and any impact it may or may not have had on the harbour.

"A fundamental part of professional engineering is a focus on continuous improvement to identify any lessons learned to enhance future practice," Mr Harvey said in a statement.

"As with any inquiry into technical issues, it is critical that individuals involved in any review have a suitable level of technical knowledge and experience to ensure that all issues are understood.

"This is vital to ensure the community has confidence in the findings of the inquiry, whatever they may be."

His comments follow similar support for the inquiry voiced by environmental group Save the Reef, which this week said it could be as politically explosive as recent ICAC corruption inquiries in New South Wales.

Group spokeswoman Dr Libby Connors said she had concerns that senior public servants at both state and federal level had "misled the public" over what happened in 2011.

"Those who knew the harbour and those who followed the water quality monitoring could see there was something seriously wrong that could not just be explained away by flood water," she said.

"At this stage it appears that senior public servants put political interests ahead of the public good and were therefore derelict in their duty."

A series of studies and inquiries by the state and federal governments have so far failed to pinpoint a single cause of the fish disease.



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