Chronicle stands firm against dam

EVEN before the mega-dam plan had been announced by Peter Beattie, the Fraser Coast Chronicle was on the case.

The former premier had jumped the gun early in March 2006, unveiling his government’s intention to plonk a weir on the Mary River upstream of Gympie.

“The Fraser Coast councils need to respond quickly to Mr Beattie’s announcement. We have civic needs and environmental concerns,” former editor Nancy Bates wrote.

With that editorial she launched a fierce, focused and fact-based campaign which was ramped up in increments during the next three years as dam announcement followed dam announcement and Queensland premier succeeded Queensland premier.

“I think it did,” Ms Bates said yesterday when asked if the Chronicle’s efforts had played a part in influencing the decision.

“It helped create a groundswell of public opinion that became more obvious to the decision makers as it rolled along.”

Even when the Chronicle plastered a target on the forehead of Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett and the negative reactions to the front page image swept in, she remained steadfast.

“We apologise if any readers were offended but do not resile from our efforts to attract Mr Garrett’s attention,” she said.

The anti-dam headlines, photographs and front page stories continued relentlessly. The editorials kept asking informed and pointy questions.

“No responsible government would rush into building a dam with the potential to create an ecological disaster,” Ms Bates wrote in November 2007. “With every step, the smell around this dam becomes more pungent.”

During the same month she asked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd why he was dodging the dam controversy and five days later wrote “The dam and its flimsy environmental impact study should be fought all the way”.

The battle went the full distance and Mr Garrett’s lunchtime announcement yesterday defied expectations and proved the pleasant surprise par excellence.

“It’s a rare day when we can celebrate a triumph for commonsense over political expediency. The dam was wrong on so many levels,” Ms Bates said.

“I’m enormously gratified because of the role the paper was able to play.

“The real heroine here is Tanzi Smith who put her career on hold to fight this battle with everything she had.”

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