Green Folder goes missing as Coca Cola kills Peats Ridge creek?
Margaret Pontifix is a retired local school teacher in agriculture and biology, and local authority figure and champion of Mangrove Mountain District Community Group Inc. "I'm not a greenie" she states firmly "but I am a conservationist. It's just terrible what's happened to the environment there." Here is Margaret talking to Jonathan Harley of 7.30 Report in 2005.
Margaret, who was a pioneer female teacher in her profession when she went through Newcastle University in 1959-61, told SAM 2 days back that up to the 1980ies the Peats Ridge creek(s) which emerged from the Peats Ridge Springs were clearly present and surrounded with natural vegetation but now it's a paddock while multiple bores are the source of "Peats Ridge Springs bottled water" marketed by both the former business owner and now Coca Cola since 2003.
In the 1980ies, as she told Commissioner Tim Moore in evidence in a controversial 2005 Land & Environment Court case involving Coca Cola, she used to collect under license 500 to 600 umbrella ferns (species name Collicoma) 3 times a year. In other words this was a very ecologically productive area with a permanent creek up until the early 1990ies. Now it's "a paddock" next to Euloo Rd, Peats Ridge now.
What a shame, and the price of progress some might say. Or maybe an improper price? Margaret Pontifix says all this ecological richness was documented 'in a big green ring binder' she took to the court hearing in 2005. She points out her forbears came to Mangrove Mountain in 1826 and the historical information in that folder is irreplaceable. Commissioner Tim Moore saw it's importance too and asked to borrow it to have a read before making his decision at David Kettle Consulting v Gosford City Council & Ors  NSWLEC 519 (29 September 2005) . But where is this critical historical and ecological baseline evidence of the rich environment that is now the Coca Cola bottled water plant?
This big Green Folder of baseline data and photographs might also have been critical in an earlier case --Azzopardi & Ors v Gosford City Council & Anor (No.2)  NSWLEC 283 (14 December 2001) which objectors lost involving claims of breach of the Rivers & Foreshores Improvement Act 1948. The RFIA has now been repealed and folded into the new Water Management Act 2000. It remains unclear to this writer how effective the new WMA is in protecting waterways.
The story gets murky. According to Margaret Pontifix the Land & Environment Court Registry returned the valuable Green Folder after the court decision in October 2005 to a representative of PJ Donnellan Solicitors who represented Gosford City Council in the case. It was 'to be returned to Margaret Pontifix'.
It was Gosford City Council lawyers who negotiated "consent conditions" agreeable to Coca Cola (in the name of their agent David Kettle) which was duly endorsed by the court.
We understand that since as early as 1992 Coca Cola was keen to extract water at Peats Ridge Springs near Gosford NSW. This is recored in MMDCG meeting minutes quoting a representative of Coca Cola visiting the area. But it was only by 2003 that they actually bought the bottling business there on Euloo Rd owned by the Pace family who initated water bottling in the early 90-ies. It remains unclear just how close the supply relationship between Pace/Parit Pty Ltd and Coca Cola Amatil/David Kettle Consulting has been from 1994 - 2003 but according to local residents it was always known that "Coca Cola would buy Pace's water bottling plant at Peats Ridge Springs".
This suggests that the Pace owned operation was a main supplier to Coca Cola for a long time prior to the latter buying Peats Ridge Springs in 2003. A cynic might suspect that Coca Cola Amatil have never been willing to destroy the Peats Ridge environment in their own name, but happy to via a proxy from 1994 to 2003, just as they prefer to run all their litigation today in the name of their agent "David Kettle". Why the PR secrecy Coca Cola? Why not stand up in your own corporate name? Is there a guilty conscience at play here for what you know has happened to the destroyed creeks and the rich ecology there?
The purchase of the Pace operation in 2003 itself was a little controversial as here:
[Media release ACCC 26 June 2003]ACCC not to oppose proposed acquisition of Peats Ridge by Coca-Cola Amatil
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will not oppose the proposed acquisition of Parit Pty Limited, trading as Peats Ridge, by Coca-Cola Amatil Limited, Acting ACCC Chairman, Mr Sitesh Bhojani, announced today.
Peats Ridge bottles and wholesales packaged water products under the brand names Peat Ridge Springs, Mount White and Blue Beau. Peats Ridge does not supply direct delivered, bulk bottled water and the overwhelming majority of Peats Ridge's sales of packaged water are to supermarkets and other food stores.
CCA bottles and wholesales packaged water nationally under the brands Mount Franklin, Kirks, Pump and Deep Spring.
"The ACCC conducted market enquiries and considered whether the proposed acquisition would lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the bottling and distribution of wholesale packaged water", Mr Bhojani said.
"The primary reason for the ACCC's conclusion that the proposed acquisition would not substantially lessen competition was the lack of significant sales by Peats Ridge to the highly concentrated route distribution channels. Route distribution includes convenience stores, milk bars, petrol stations, vending machines, and on-premise distribution such as restaurants, cafes, pubs, arenas and cinemas. "Accordingly, the ACCC decided to not intervene in the proposed acquisition.
"However, given the strength of CCA in the route distribution channels generally, the ACCC will closely examine any future proposals by CCA to acquire other beverage businesses".
- Mr Sitesh Bhojani, Acting Chairman, (02) 6243 1132
Release # MR 131/03
Issued: 26th June 2003
More here Amatil buys Peats Ridge Springs, stays silent on Neverfail, By Scott Rochfort, June 3 2003
Today we wrote to the lawyers for Gosford Council to request them to produce the missing Green Folder, the implication being that it will be raised as an issue in the new court proceedings as early as this Friday directions hearing 6th June 2008:
Sent: Wednesday, June 04, 2008 11:16 AM
Subject: Coca Cola case - mystery of missing Green folder of baseline evidence Peats Ridge creek(s)
I will need to ask your firm, the council's solicitors to produce this mysterious green folder of historical and ecological baseline data relating to Peats Ridge creeks on the Coca Cola property (formerly Pace). If at all possible to the directions hearing on Friday. Margaret Pontifix advises me Registry at the LEC provided it to a representative of Donnelan's firm after the Tim Moore hearing and I have offered to help her search for it. Can you please advise.
Here is some more background (see below) as published to the community and general readership earlier today. Readership for this SAM news website is about 25,000 per month.
For your information Hermadth De Silva of Newcastle Dept of Water and Energy advised by phone yesterday that for the first time "a deterimination" for the percentage of water licences available for the next year would be made on 1st July 2008 in about 4 weeks time. Not sure if that means 100% or some smaller amount or whether that is surface and groundwater licence annual determination.
Further I have been consulting the DOP over whether the original 2003 DA should really have had, or indeed legally needed to have, a full formal EIS. Would be interested in council's view or advice about that either through you or Alan Ford, as legal officer. It looks like an area fertile for specific express addition to Sch 3 of the 2000 regulation for designated development though it may well be in there implicitly as well?
Further I will call you about the scope of the directions hearing this Friday. Hopefully later this afternoon.
Very lastly, I note this story in the press yesterday on the now familiar theme, again about uncertain and variable rainfall patterns. This seems very relevant to "which" average rainfall numbers are relied on for Kulnura-Mangrove Mountain Water Sharing Plan and management generally including by Gosford Council water authority/department. That is last 10 years or the quite distinct 100 year averages.
Yours truly, Tom McLoughlin agent for objector Diamond, researcher for Jane Azzopardi
Previous reportage on Coca Cola Amatil at Peats Ridge Springs here:
Sunday, 1 June 2008 Coca Cola Amatil bottled water legals: Ratepayers force reversal by Gosford Council so far
1 June 2008 Objecter seeks to be heard in Coca Cola bottled water case after driest May on record
Wednesday, 21 May 2008 Coca Cola in Environment Court on 6 June over Mangrove Mtn bottled water extraction
Posted by editor
at 5:34 PM NZT
Updated: Thursday, 5 June 2008 12:55 AM NZT