As requested both Westpac and Nab sent representatives to a meeting with Watershed representatives at Kilcunda on Wednesday 14th October.
Results of our meeting with the banks in relation to our concerns about them not meeting their ethical investment guidelines:
A presentation was given by Watershed pointing out our concerns and some background to the issues. The banks filled us in on various aspects of how they see their obligations and how they assessed the project.
The banks have assessed this as a B-grade environmental and social risk project (from an A to C or no ranking range). Our fears were well founded, in that they admitted they largely relied on the proponents environmental assessment (as poorly scoped and resourced as it was), to give the project an acceptable risk assessment.
Both banks used a consultant firm, originally employed by AquaSure, to “do their assessment”.
The banks agreed that ongoing assessments would be required, although the scope or scale of this was not available.
They claimed ‘confidentiality’ as their reason for not previously consulting Watershed, and for not immediately being able to address some of our concerns.
The consultant, who was present, said he believed that alternatives were not available, based on previous work he had done for Government, and an unspecified document he did not name or indicate availability of.
Watershed pointed out that by relying on a flawed EES and failing to consider all issues the equator principles 2 and 3 in particular had been inadequately addressed. After our presentation there was general agreement that the issues around using desalination to secure Melbourne’s water supply were many and varied.
Watershed have left the banks with a list of issues that we feel have been inadequately addressed including some of the above and also the following; we have requested they furnish us with responses to these concerns in a timely fashion:
Why was the project given a category B status given the scale, implications for future water policy, location, multiple areas of impact, unresolved concerns and unaddressed issues involved?
How can their environmental assessment be adequate given that it either did not, or only inadequately addressed issues such as the need for baseline studies, choice of site or processes, climate change implications, social issues and cumulative impacts of this project over time and with existing and future projects?
What do the banks see as ‘consultation’, what will the following plans contain and when will they be available:
’social environmental management plan’
‘borrower’s grievance mechanism’
‘works environmental management plan’
‘ongoing environmental monitoring plan for compliance’ ?
What degree of public transparency will the banks require of the above, and when will they be required?
Stay tuned to see whether the banks reassess their involvement in this project or whether we get satisfactory responses to these and other concerns.
Please continue to send letters with your concerns to the banks, click here.
Should you be prepared to take action if we do not get satisfactory responses please contact us, click here.
Click the ‘BANKS’ tab at the top of the page for more information on this issue.