Image for Open letter to Mike Brewster, from Helmut Ernst, resident, Waratah ...

Open letter to
The Chief Executive Officer
Waratah Water Reservoir must Live

Mister Brewster,

Your demand that I respect you, as expressed in your letter dated 27.02 2018 is noted. And instead of challenging any other particular statement in that letter, I would like to provide you with a mirror of the way in which you and your ‘fine engineers’ are perceived by this community. And even you will eventually understand why this community is now more than ever before mutually supportive and galvanised.

Let me borrow a metaphor, used by one of my neighbours in a recent ABC interview about Waratah Water Reserve: If as a trusted caretaker of your home, I would make my way into it and destroy a cherished family heirloom, I would go to jail. If on my way out I kill your dog, cat and canary I would go to jail. If, before shutting the gate on my way out I uproot and behead your shrubs and flowers, I would go to jail. In fact if I were to paint graffiti onto the glass entrance door of TasWater, I would most likely go to jail.

TasWater decided and nearly completed to erase our Waratah Water Reservoir (Crown Land – Public Reserve). For more than 100 years it has been providing fresh water security for our town. For more than 100 years Waratah’s residents accepted the reservoir as their own; as a place of inspiration and recreation, a place that has been a reserve belonging to all Waratah residents, and as Crown Land it is owned by all Australians. Four years of TasWater mismanagement ruined the dam, and it has become a symbol of shame for TasWater. TasWater’s gross vandalism violated every acceptable standard of corporate interaction with stakeholders. TasWater’s behaviour has been Un-Australian.

Would you like me to respect you for that?

Waratah Water Reservoir environs have been regenerating over more than 100 years from being touched by man. There is still old growth rainforest interspaced with new growth: massive trees, protected orchids and colourful fungi. The actions of your corporation lowered the water table to 2.5 m below full supply level, that is (estimated) approximately 10% of its full supply volume. This is impacting the balance of plant life in the wetlands. There are reptiles and amphibians, which you may only rarely see so close to townships. TasWater’s actions killed off eco-systems, which support and protect native wildlife: Quolls, Platypus, Tasmanian Devils, Echidna, and destroyed the feeding grounds of a family of rare white-bellied sea eagles. Your actions converted an exquisite wetland and habitat of native wildlife into TasWater’s own Corporate Abattoir.

Would you like me to respect you for that?

Waratah Water Reservoir is part of a sophisticated system of natural and artificial watercourses, reservoirs, water races and water tunnels, refined over more than a century, all interconnected and designed to optimise harvesting of water. To many of us in Waratah it is incomprehensible how a person trained in engineering would want to destroy any part of this matchless water network. To wreck and destroy as TasWater has done is outright vandalism. How can any qualified engineer lend his name to sanction such action? Do you remember Engineers Australia’s Code of Ethics?

“As engineering practitioners, we use our knowledge and skills for the benefit of the community to create engineering solutions for a sustainable future. In doing so, we strive to serve the community ahead of other personal or sectional interests.”

But perhaps you consider yourselves above all codes of ethics. Perhaps you think that you know best, what’s good for the Waratah Community; and as an added bonus even better for TasWater.

Rationalize as you wish; you are lying to others and still worse: to yourself. You are in breach of your professional code of ethics.

Would you like me to respect you for that?

However, the one thing for which I must respect you is that you are a human being with all the rights you were born with. And in this country you do have the right to freedom, as long as you do not impact the personal sphere and the freedom of others. That is where TasWater failed, being the trusted caretaker of our Waratah Water Reservoir. For four years you neglected your duty of care; and now, suddenly you start talking community safety? And you have the added audacity to sing a mantra of caring for the safety of a little girl on a bike in flood waters.

Multi-national corporations working in the most remote communities of Africa or Asia would not dare to do, what TasWater has been doing here in Waratah. International NGO’s would sort them out quick, smart and easy.

Waratah might be relatively helpless; but there are some not so helpless State and Federal Authorities to deal with this matter. Forget your sad safety mantra. Be courageous, do the right thing, do the smart thing: You broke it, you fix it; and do it before Waratah River waters complete the destruction, which you so successfully initiated.

There is even a chance that some of us would respect you for that.

Helmut Ernst

EARLIER on Tasmanian Times ...

Is TasWater the new Forestry Tasmania?

TasWater ... corporate bully?

Mike Brewster, TasWater CEO: ‘Correcting the record’