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Uniting Church may damn the state government over Mary River

Keen to hear the concerns of local people the Moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland will be attending a community meeting in Imbil on Thursday night to hear the stories of people who may be affected if the construction of the proposed Mary River Dam goes ahead.

Uniting Church minister Rev Iain Watt who provides pastoral and church services in the region believes the size and impact of the dam will have huge ramifications for the community, both in terms of the campaigning in response to the proposal, and in the way the community responds to a decision whether it is that the dam will go ahead or not.

Social Responsibility Advocate for the Uniting Church in Queensland Ms Heather den Houting said the Uniting Church will intersect with the community in political and pastoral dimensions, in its ability to make submissions to the state government as a result of community engagement and as it continues to minister to the congregations and wider communities in the area.

"The Uniting Church also has a track record of taking a stand on environmental issues," she said.

"Whilst it has a clear hope that all people will have access to safe and reliable water, it also asks that any approach to development be taken in the context of care for the environment."

In 1991, the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia adopted the document The Rights of Nature and the Rights of Future Generations which says that disturbances of nature require a justification.

"They are only permissible when the presuppositions of the disturbance are determined in a democratically legitimate process and with respect of the rights of nature; when the interests of the disturbance outweigh the interests of a complete protection of the rights of nature; and when the disturbance is not inordinate.

"Damaged nature is to be restored whenever and wherever possible.”

Local residents claim the proposed dam would result in the destruction of 76 km2 of agricultural land and force the relocation of around 900 families and related businesses.

Local State member and independent Elisa Roberts acknowledged the complexities of the issues involved.

"As one does more and more research, one finds that there are more questions than answers as to whether dams are still appropriate.

"The majority of residents of the Mary Valley are against the building of a dam at Traveston. The reasons for that are various and numerous, but each is just as important as the next.

"The upheaval that those people are facing is extensive and will be life changing."

Any response by the Uniting Church will put it in direct opposition to Queensland Premier Peter Beattie who told the Gympie Times that people power will not be enough to stop the dam.

"Only technical problems would block the plan. If it stacks up it will go ahead. It is humanly impossible to build a dam without some local opposition. I do not like it any more than anyone else, but this is about life and death,” he said.

The public meeting with the Moderator will allow the Uniting Church to more fully understand the impact of the proposal on the community.

Ms den Houting said, "As a result our capacity to make submissions on the political arena and to develop appropriate strategies to deal with the community crises will be enhanced."

The Moderator and Ms den Houthing will be at the meeting at the Community Hall Elisabeth St Imbil  at 7pm next Thursday night 8 June.