Dr Allan Freeth, Chief Executive of the Environmental Protection Authority, today released a statement he made to Parliament’s Environment Select Committee on his dealings with Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage.
The statement deals with his authority’s independence and with the recent resignation of its Chief Scientist, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth.
The statement says:
I wrote to the Committee last week, in relation to an email I received from the Honourable Nick Smith, raising concerns about apparent inconsistencies in the evidence I provided to the Select Committee at the annual review hearing on 15 February 2018.
I note that the concerns were raised in the context of questions about whether there had been any discussions with the Associate Minister for the Environment, Hon Eugenie Sage, about the Environmental Protection Authority’s then Chief Scientist, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth.
Thank you for accepting my offer to appear again, although, contrary to media reports, I am not here to correct any previous statements.
Consistent with my communication to the Committee last week, I wish to confirm to the Committee that I did not provide any inaccurate or incorrect information in my previous evidence.
As I stated, at no time, in the period covered by, and up to the Select Committee hearing, did I have any discussions with Minister Sage about Dr Rowarth or the role and independence of the EPA.
I note that, since I communicated my offer last week to return to the Committee, Minister Sage has made a personal statement to the House correcting her answers to oral questions, which touched on whether I had been present at a meeting, which I understand took place on 29 November 2017, when she told officials that her office had received correspondence about media comments by Dr Rowarth.
The Minister said in her correcting statement that (and I quote): “The EPA’s Chief Executive was not at the meeting on 29 November. The meeting was a briefing from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) about the EPA, and I advised MfE’s Chief Executive that my office had received correspondence.”
I also wish to confirm that at no time in the period covered by, and up to the Committee hearing, had Minister Sage raised any issue with me about the scientific independence of the EPA.
The Minister’s office did send me an article that had been emailed to her by a member of the public. I acknowledged that I had seen it and offered to have a follow-up meeting with the Minister if requested. My offer of a follow-up meeting with the Minister was not acknowledged and no meeting occurred.
I regard it as entirely legitimate for the Minister’s office to send media reports to me, in the context of the responsible Minister’s oversight of the Authority. My experience up to now, has been consistent with this practice.
The Chief Executive of the Ministry for the Environment also emailed me about the article. These communications are now a matter of public record. However, I note that the questions raised with me about the EPA’s scientific independence were expressly in the context of Ministerial interference.
In conclusion, Dr Freeth said he trusts this clarifies the situation.
He assured the committee the EPA takes the issue of its independence extremely seriously. He saw no basis for concerns in regard to this status; nor did he expect concerns to be raised in the future.
Source: Environmental Protection Authority