The peak environment group for the Kimberley, Environs Kimberley (EK), has welcomed the report of the Auditor General, which documents multiple failures of mining and petroleum regulation by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, (DMIRS) and the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER).

EK Director Martin Pritchard said the systemic failure of mining and petroleum industry regulation by the agencies, whose duty it is to protect communities and the environment, was a longstanding concern of EK.

“We have raised objections to the chronic failure of DMIRS and DWER over many years – pointing to examples in mining, water use and petroleum activities, including failed regulation of fracking companies and projects.

“We do not accept that the failures are a result of COVID or ‘workloads’, as claimed by DMIRS and DWER.

“The problems were serious long before COVID arrived and the matter of workload is first and foremost one of prioritisation. 

“Questions in the West Australian Parliament [see Hansard] revealed that despite Yulleroo 2 being the first well to be fracked in the Kimberley, DMIRS did not carry out an inspection for seven years and only after a gas leak was found by a Traditional Owner.

“The real problem is that regulators prioritise mining and petroleum interests over the public interest; then there is the resultant shift towards ‘self-regulation’, which is just another word for ‘turning a blind eye’.

“We call on the McGowan Government to fully implement the Auditor General’s recommendations, including the Auditor’s call for far greater transparency and accountability.

“As an insurance policy, we need additional reforms such as third-party reporting and enforcement rights under mining and petroleum legislation. For onshore petroleum activities, we need an industry-wide pooled rehabilitation fund, so that the public is not left to foot the bill when companies go bankrupt and disappear (as New Standard Energy has done).

“Third-party enforcement is the legally enshrined power of community members to seek recourse to appropriate enforcement bodies, such as the Magistrate’s Court, to enforce compliance with environmental conditions.

“We will continue to expose systemic regulatory failure in the Kimberley and pressure the government to tackle these problems as a priority.”

"The Auditor General's report shows why fracking should be abnned in the Kimberley."

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