Upper House Committees gather evidence in a variety of different ways, including receiving submissions and examining witnesses in a hearing. However, sometimes the most effective way for committee members to learn about an issue is to go out into the community and visit a location or site first hand.
While site visits are part of the evidence-gathering process they do not form part of the official evidence. However, they provide vital information, as members use what they have learnt on a site visit to inform their views on the issues or ask further questions at hearings.
This week the Public Works Committee travelled to Lake Macquarie to conduct a site visit as part of its inquiry into costs for remediation of sites containing coal ash repositories.
The committee toured sites around Lake Macquarie to better understand the impacts of coal ash dams on waterways located near the Eraring and Vales Point Power Stations. The committee also viewed an ash dam up close, to learn about the processes being undertaken to remediate ash dam sites, such as dam capping and revegetation.
In addition, the committee held an offsite hearing in the afternoon to gather evidence from local and state parliamentary representatives, as well as environmental and community groups.
Site visits, like the one conducted by the Public Works Committee, are an incredibly useful tool for committees to understand an issue and explore solutions.