Industry buffer zone queries linger

Aiden BoyhamSound Telegraph
Kwinana Industries Council director Chris Oughton .
Camera IconKwinana Industries Council director Chris Oughton . Credit: Gareth McKnight

Labor’s resounding State election victory has caused ripples across the State, including in Mandogalup where local residents have long been battling the State Government and industry over a proposed buffer zone.

The proposed buffer legislation, first drafted in October 2015 by the Barnett government, involved a proposed buffer zone around Alcoa’s residue disposal areas in the Western Trade Coast industrial area.

While Labor’s dominant performance at the polls means the Barnett legislation is in effect finished, questions still remain in the area.

Government and industry argued the buffer was needed to provide planning certainty and to protect industry from urban residential encroachment, but about 60 landowners affected by the buffer said they faced the prospect of falling property prices with the buffer leaving them unable to sell, subdivide or invest in their properties.

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Residents protested against the proposal and even took their grievances to the steps of Parliament House, which led to the Government announcing that the Environmental Protection Authority would look into the impact of dust on health and amenity.

At the time, chairman Dr Tom Hatton said the EPA would consider the potential impacts of both current and future land use before giving advice on an appropriate buffer size.

As residents and industry await the EPA’s report, local resident Reid Donald said he had lived in Mandogalup for 36 years without any problems.

“We breed horses, we drink the water; I used to grow herbs and chillies and didn’t have a problem with dust at all,” he said.

“There’s a farm here that grows leeks and radishes and they export to all over the world, so if there’s a dust problem I don’t think (they would be exporting).

“It’s a rural area, we are not bothered by it.”

Kwinana Industries Council director Chris Oughton argued a robust industry protection area was vital for industry and the 30,000 workers deriving a living directly or indirectly from it.

“The bottom line is that the WA Planning Commission proposed the buffer alignment in Mandogalup and this was supported by the Department of Health,” he said.

“The State Administrative Tribunal has settled on the use of the precautionary principle as well.”

During debate between industry and residents, the KIC argued that the science said there should be no residential development closer than 1.5km from the boundary of Alcoa’s residue storage area because in extreme adverse weather conditions dust could cause problems for residents.

“One thing is for certain, the long-term future of the industrial area relies on the presence of an adequate buffer zone, and one that is protected from the piecemeal encroachment of developer-led residential development,” Mr Oughton said.

“Everyone with a connection to the economic viability of the companies in the industrial area should be aware of the potential impacts this issue has on its future viability.”

The EPA’s report is expected next month.

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