AN Orange City Council spokesman has defended the decision to appoint an environmental consultant from Geolyse as the Macquarie pipeline’s independent overseer, despite the firm producing the long-term hydrology modelling for the project.
The council must employ an independent expert to help manage the environmental impact of the pipeline as one of the conditions attached to the project’s approval.
Geolyse environmental services manager Andrew Brownlow will be paid by the council to monitor and report on the project’s compliance with the extensive government conditions.
Council spokesman Allan Reeder defended the appointment, despite Mr Brownlow’s Geolyse colleague, environmental engineer Martin Haege, authoring the project’s hydrology and water security assessment as part of the environmental assessment (EA) last year.
“Geolyse is a professional firm with a large amount of expertise,” he said.
“They know how to remove any perception of a conflict of interest.”
Pipeline landholder Colin Young said the most essential part of the environmental consultant’s role was independence.
“If his office is at the council chamber he’s not independent,” he said.
Mr Reeder said Geolyse having worked for the council would not affect Mr Brownlow’s independence.
“Having a general awareness of the project will allow him to be do more independent monitoring,” he said.
Mr Brownlow said his firm’s involvement with the project during the EA process would “absolutely not” impact his ability to act as an independent consultant monitoring the project’s construction.
Another landholder Fiona Ostini said she felt it would be difficult for the consultant to be independent when they had been appointed by the council.
“We will be hoping for the best and try to hold them to account,” she said.
Mr Reeder said people with concerns during the pipeline’s construction should contact the council as the first point of call.
“[Mr Brownlow’s] role is more an overall monitoring role rather than dealing with hands-on complaints,” he said.