West Tamar mayor Barry Easther, who has just been appointed chairman of a taskforce by Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon to oversee Beaconsfield’s economic and social recovery after the gold mine disaster, has become a familiar face to countless TV viewers as he expresses his concern for the trapped miners and their families.
But yesterday’s appointment came two days after Beaconsfield resident Mick Wain wrote to Lennon alleging unethical behaviour by Easther.
According to Wain, the appointment represents a “gross conflict of interest” because he says Easther is a shareholder in Beaconsfield Gold.
Wain, a retired RAAF warrant officer, says he rang Easther well before the disaster to tell him of his alarm over cracks in his house and the concerns of other residents, and suggested he get an engineer to check council buildings in Beaconsfield for damage that might be attributed to the mine. “He said he was unaware of any tremors, that people working in the buildings hadn’t complained so he didn’t see any reason to take the matter any further,” Wain says. “I thought his response was bizarre in the circumstances.”
At a community meeting about the tremors on March 2, Wain says Easther “spoke in glowing terms about how wonderful the mine was.” When Wain tried to ask him a question, through the chair, he says he was refused. “After the meeting closed, I went up to him and asked a direct question – whether he was now or ever had been a shareholder in the mine. He said he’d sold a heap of shares, but was still a shareholder, but they didn’t pay much and had been a poor investment, or words to that effect.”
Crikey called the mayor to confirm his ownership of Beaconsfield shares yesterday morning and again today, but he has not responded.
Wain has also written a second letter to the Premier, local Labor member Michael Polley, who he says, he advised of community concerns some months ago, the coroner Peter Wilson and Environment Minister Paula Wriedt, saying the mine has been operating in breach of the state Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994, Section V, which deals with creating a nuisance. “I was in touch with the Environment Department months ago,” he says “but I was told I should civil action against the mine. I said it’s your department, your regulations, but you are asking me to take civil action? I was left with the feeling that there was someone down the pipeline who didn’t want anything done.”