Interview with Barry Carbon – Mr EPA

Barry Carbon AM’s earliest memories are of being with his grandparents in and around South Fremantle and the Fremantle wharf.

Later, after attending primary school in Bicton he was one of the first kids to attend Freo’s then brand new John Curtin High School on the hill overlooking the Port.

Later again, he attained a degree in science (biochemistry and physiology), a conversion degree to agriculture, a masters degree in agriculture and extra units after graduation in mathematics, all from the University of Western Australia.

Then for 17 years until 1979, Barry pursued a career as a scientist at CSIRO in soil-plant water relations. He was one of the first to publish on water relations of Australian forests. His group took a multi-disciplinary approach to topics like wetland management, water allocation and coastal development.

From 1980-85, Barry found himself in the private sector in charge of environmental affairs for Alcoa of Australia, including mining rehabilitation, pollution control, and farm management. In those times Alcoa invented modern mining rehabilitation, and was subsequently recognised by the UN as the only mining company awarded membership of the global 500 for environmental achievement.

Then he found himself back in the public sector. From 1985-93, Barry was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the WA Environmental Protection Authority where he led the team that introduced the Environmental Protection Act 1986, legislation that was recognised, including by the International Association of Impact Assessment, as the then best in the world. This was a time of great change for environmental protection in WA. Industry licencing changed from a health oriented focus to concern for the wider environment. His was also a time when the Peel,Estuary/Dawesville Cut project was debated and eventually implemented, a project of which Barry is immensely proud.

In 1994, Barry was appointed CEO of the Commonwealth EPA during the time of first application of Basel Convention, leadership in international efforts to curb ozone depleting substances, introduction with industry assistance of national lead-in-petrol standards, re-assessment of all previous Commonwealth approvals of coal industry in Australia, winning the IAIA global award for joint government-industry guidelines for mining and environment developed in Australia and implemented in Southern Africa. He held that position until 1997. Concurrently, he was Supervising Scientist for the Alligator River Regions in the Northern Territory overseeing uranium industry environment management.

From 1998-2002, Barry was the inaugural Director General of Queensland EPA and Parks and Wildlife where he oversaw the introduction of Queensland EPA, major planning and protection of water bodies and coasts to manage canal developments, coastal erosion and undertook first prosecutions for environmental damage, including vessel impacts on Great Barrier Reef.

Then between 2002-2006, he was CEO of New Zealand Ministry for Environment and Secretary for Environment, where he was responsible he introduced wide measures to make the Resource Management Act effective and guidelines for Hazardous Substance and New Organisms Act, allocation of areas for marine aquaculture, clean-up of most contaminated sites in New Zealand. In last two years NZ won the international award (never before or since) for best government environment management in world.

Not surprisingly, Barry has received many awards for his work, including –
* An AM – Member of the Order of Australia for his public service
* Honorary Fellow of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand
* Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
* International Association of Impact Assessment regional medalist for Australia and New Zealand
* Australia Centenary Medal
* CSIRO Brodie-Hall Medal.

And at some point in all this, Barry became a leading WAFL football umpire!

Barry Carbon kindly agreed to sit down with our editor, Michael Barker, to discuss Freo, football, his career, and the future of the planet and make the podcast below.


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Here’s the podcast. Enjoy!