Mining industry and Liberal Party insider appointed to chair Sydney Catchment Authority - As public health experts removed

-->

The NSW Labor Opposition has slammed the appointment by the O'Farrell Government of a former Liberal Party official with an extensive background in the mining industry as chairman of the Sydney Catchment Authority – which has responsibility for protecting Sydney's water supplies.

Shadow Minister for the Environment, Luke Foley said the move comes at a time when Coal Seam Gas company Apex Energy has applied for new Petroleum Exploration Licences in the sensitive special areas of the Sydney Catchment Authority.

"Mark Bethwaite was appointed Chairman of the Sydney Catchment Authority by Minister Katrina Hodgkinson after the government legislated to remove guaranteed board positions for environmental, farming and local council representatives," Mr Foley said today.

"Mr Bethwaite is a former federal treasurer of the Liberal Party and a previous director of both the Minerals Council of Australia and NSW Minerals Council. His current and former directorships include a long list of mining companies.

"Dr Stephen Corbett, the director of Population Health, Sydney West Area Health Service, has not been reappointed to the board, leaving it without a public health expert for the very first time.

"Four and a half million people rely on water supplied by the Sydney Catchment Authority.

"The appointment to the board of a former Liberal Party official with an extensive background in the mining industry, while leaving it without a public health expert, is an abandonment of the obligation to protect public health."

The Sydney Catchment Authority was established by the Carr Labor Government in 1998 in response to the outbreak of cryptosporidium and giardia in Sydney's water supply. The Authority is legally required to protect the Sydney drinking water catchment to promote water quality and protect public health.

"The O'Farrell Government has put the poacher in charge of the hen house," said Mr Foley.

"The Minister's media release conveniently makes no mention of the fact that Mr Bethwaite has been appointed Chairman of the SCA, simply naming him as one of seven new board appointees. However Mr Bethwaite's entry in "Who's Who" records he is now Chairman of the Sydney Catchment Authority.

"I fear this new appointment will see mining companies given the green light to drill for Coal Seam Gas in the sensitive special areas of the Sydney Catchment Authority – something Barry O'Farrell promised at the last election he would not allow."

At a public rally before the last election Premier Barry O'Farrell stated that the Liberals and Nationals would:

"… ensure mining cannot occur in any water catchment area and that any mining leases and exploration permits will reflect that commonsense. No ifs, no buts, a guarantee".