Environmental job cuts risk a repeat of Gladstone failures

A report criticising government oversight of a major Gladstone harbour dredging project has warned against cutting resources for environmental monitoring and compliance. Flickr/GreensMPs, CC BY-NC-ND

A long-awaited report on environmental failures at the biggest port along the Great Barrier Reef coastline and today’s federal budget may not seem connected – but if you read the report, it’s clear just how important this budget will be for Australia’s environment.

About 16,000 public servants are predicted to lose their jobs after this budget, and environmental staff have been named high on the list in several news outlets.

My contacts within the Department of Environment say they expect more than 20% of their staff to go. From my personal knowledge, the department already has very few officers with sufficient skills, expertise and experience to oversee complex compliance monitoring programs for major projects.

Why does that matter? And what’s the connection to an independent review into what went wrong at Gladstone harbour, released on Friday last week but largely overshadowed by budget news?

The location of Gladstone's port along the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area coastline. Independent Review of the Bund Wall at the Port of Gladstone, CC BY