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Moderator damns government over Mary River

Rev Iain Watt (left) and the Moderator in conversation with a Mary Valley dairy farmer

Queensland Synod moderator Rev Dr David Pitman marched on the ALP Convention in Brisbane in early June with residents who will be displaced by the proposed Traveston Crossing dam in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.

Dr Pitman had earlier met with effected residents in the Mary Valley and toured the central Traveston Valley to meet local people and gain a more complete understanding of the issues.

Dr Pitman listened to the concerns and responded to the grief and anger of the people with a commitment to support them in every way possible.

“The treatment of the people in the Mary Valley by this government is shameful and unacceptable,” he said.

Local Uniting Church minister Rev Iain Watt said that those who have lived in the area for generations are distraught and children are stirred up and anxious as they see their parents continually stressed.

“The people living in the area affected (and it is much, much wider than those in the dam footprint) were not consulted but told blankly by the Premier that this is a fait accompli,” he said. “This is not democratic process – this is abuse.”

The Moderator described the government’s behaviour as abusive and callous. “I personally feel a deep sense of outrage on behalf of the residents of the Mary Valley.

“They have been treated very badly by a government that constantly declares that it ‘cares for people’. There is no evidence of that here.”

Dr Pitman told the rally, “I want you to know that there are a lot of people in the city who are with you.

“There are those of us who are willing to change our lifestyles so you don’t have to lose yours.

“The Uniting Church will stand by you in your struggle.”

The church’s Social Justice Advocate Ms Heather den Houting who travelled to Imbil with the Moderator said the Uniting Church in Australia has clear environmental policies which cover the building of major water catchments and storage facilities.

“The church says that such disturbances should be determined in a democratically legitimate process, with respect for the rights of nature and only where the disturbance is not inordinate.”

After a day and a half of consultations Dr Pitman concluded, “I am not a geologist or an engineer but there seems to be a significant body of opinion that seriously questions the construction of this particular dam in this area.”

“I would like the Premier to explain the basis on which he can commit to this project before the investigation has concluded, and in the absence of any prior consultation with those most directly and adversely affected.

“I find his attitude and the intention both mystifying and irresponsible.”

At the time Journey published this article the government was standing firm on the Traveston Crossing dam project.

Dr Pitman believes that the local residents and the Save the Mary River Committee are more than capable of arguing the environmental case against the government proposals.

“Our primary concern is for the people and the way they are being treated.

“Regardless of the final outcome, a great injustice has been done,” he said.

“Our commitment as a church must be to challenge that injustice and to ensure that proper and sustained pastoral care is provided, both now and into the future.”

Photo : Rev Iain Watt (left) and the Moderator in conversation with a Mary Valley dairy farmer