JRPP Briefing Notes
Notes from the
SOUTHERN REGION PLANNING PANEL
Public Briefing Meeting
Held in Tomerong Hall, Hawken Road, Tomerong
Monday 9 August 2010, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
References: JRPP 2009STH007
Shoalhaven Council – DA09/2077
Non-putrescible Waste facility (Landfill), 146 Parnell Rd, Tomerong
JRPP Panel Members: Pam Allan (Chair), Alison McCabe, Allen Grimwood
These are notes taken by one individual for a packed program. They do not purport to be full minutes. They only attempt to capture the gist of each speaker’s points, particularly for the benefit of ShUT members who were unable to be present. The writer has made an effort to have the notes checked and apologises for any inaccuracies and omissions.
Pam Allan reinforced that this meeting was not a determination meeting. It was purely a briefing meeting to further gauge community input in person, to add to the written submissions. There was no provision today for questions to any speakers. Minutes would be taken for the panel. It was not clear where these minutes could be accessed, but if they become publicly available ShUT will provide a link on the shutip.com website
The expected representative for the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) would not be coming today, although invited to speak, and on the agenda. On a question from the floor, the panel undertook to feed information from this meeting to DECCW.
The Determination meeting is now expected to be held in Nowra on 21 or 22 October, or possibly over both days. All those who have written submissions will be invited to apply for a slot to speak – time allotted will be 3 minutes per speaker, with a possible extension of 1 minute.
1. Bronwyn Seidan and David Cannon, Watkinson Apperley Pty Ltd
The proponent representatives provided a presentation explaining the proposal. This listed some of the main objections and provided responses. The audience reaction to these responses indicated that the audience did not find them satisfactory. A full transcript of the presentation, in PowerPoint form, can be found on the council DA tracking site.
Several questions from the audience were permitted:
Q: What form would the noise barrier take? A: No decision yet made as to mound, wall or combination.
The following questions were not answered but were put on notice. It was not clear who would provide answers, or where or when.
Where does the Jervis Bay Marine Park end – does it extend up the creeks?
What is the definition of a truck movement?
What about liquid waste?
What Indigenous Councils were consulted?
What is the intended lining of the leachate dam? Is it 3mm of clay?
Local Federal Labor candidate Neil Reilly was invited to speak for a few minutes. He condemned the tip proposal as totally unsuitable for the location. He noted that although the decision was not a federal matter, nevertheless tourism and the environment are important to him and he wished to make his position clear and show his support for those working against the tip.
2. Rob Hogan, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water
Did not attend.
3. Shoalhaven’s Unwanted Tip (ShUT):
Shut Speaker 1 expressed great disappointment at DECCW’s absence, and also with the State Planning Department not being represented. He noted that a daytime meeting in a small venue with short notice guarantees that perhaps 10% of those who wished to come could be there. He spoke of community outrage that DECCW have issued a conditional license to operate the tip, if it is approved, and the thoroughly inadequate response by DECCW to looking into the tip proposal. He questioned whether anybody from DECCW had visited the site or even the area.
He then listed many of the concerns about risks to the environment and in particular to St Georges Basin and Jervis Bay, and the inadequate coverage of these in the proponent’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS). He said that both the proponent and DECCW seem to have ignored the fact that 2 creeks pass through the site and that the proposal therefore breached EPA guidelines. He dismissed as fallacy the idea that a “closed system” could be built to enclose the pollution.
He spoke of the many issues in regard to increased truck traffic, including noise, pollution, accident risk, road degradation and increased carbon footprint.
Shut Speaker 2 described the complex legal setup of the entities involved in the proposal. He then spoke of the many previously documented breaches of conditions by the quarry owners, and the large numbers of complaints by residents about the quarry operations. He went through the history of the quarry operators failing to put in a bridge to replace the existing causeway, despite DA approvals and promises over more than 10 years. Investigations have failed to show any approval process or water licence for one of the dams on the property. There is evidence of illegal land clearing after an application to clear was withdrawn. In summary, over many years the operators have shown disregard for operating conditions.
Shut Speaker 3 was unable to attend due to the time of the meeting, but provided notes which shut speaker 2 used to describe the serious issues of the hydro-geological aspects of the proposal. The DECCW licence permits up to 300 litres of leachate per day to drain from the site. Because this leachate will constantly be pumped back up and through the tip, it will become continually more concentrated. He said “If this application is approved, it is the equivalent of pouring 300 litres of highly toxic waste every day off the wharf at Huskisson”.
Shut Speaker 4 addressed the economic impacts on the area. He spoke of the serious effects on tourism, an industry which brings more than $629 million into the area each year and creates more than 6,800 jobs. “It makes no sense to risk a vital industry that employs thousands by allowing a polluting industry promising to employ five people” he said. This would have a devastating effect on the local economy.
He said that homes within 500m of the tip would lose 10 to 20% of their value, with surrounding homes also losing value.
Shut Speaker 5 summed up by listing some of the overwhelming number of different objections to the tip which have been provided. More than 770 submissions against the tip have been received, and more are pouring in now that the proponent has extended the application to add a noise barrier which would be 400m long and 5m high. He stated that, as demonstrated by the ShUT speakers, the tip is overwhelmingly not in the public interest, on economic, environmental, social or any other grounds.
The ShUT committee and members have invested thousands of hours and thousands of dollars in this fight and the fight will continue until it is won.
4. Amanda Findley, Shoalhaven City Councillor
Amanda spoke of the Shoalhaven City Council (SCC) strategic direction which has a large focus on tourism and does not encompass placing a waste disposal facility within a prime tourist area. She noted the huge and unprecedented number of submissions against the tip. The tip site is within a rural/residential area and close to many residential developments. The whole area is known as one of natural bushland and clean waters, which are the major attractions for tourists.
The tip is located in a position which means that the only possible access is by road (unlike other large tips such as Tarago which have rail links).
She questioned whether there are any other large privately run tips in NSW, not run under the management of local government.
She noted that the danger of the increased truck movements, particularly along Island Point Rd and nearby sections of the highway, is further worsened by the fact that we have a larger than average percentage of older drivers in our local population.
5. John Fergusson, Shoalhaven City Councillor
John thanked ShUT for the hard work they have been doing to oppose this proposal. He called the proposal “unworthy in all senses”. There is nothing in it for the people of the Shoalhaven. He is involved with a team trying to drive the Shoalhaven tourist industry up to a billion dollar industry – clearly we don’t need to endanger that.
Anything which means more trucks on the Pacific Highway is unacceptable.
He made the point that ensuring that guidelines and conditions are met is simply not possible. Compliance is a huge issue. Occasional spot checks are not enough and Council does not have the resources to constantly monitor compliance or to follow up breaches.
6. Bob Proudfoot, Shoalhaven City Councillor
Bob was unable to attend but sent a message of his support for the fight against the tip.
7. Shut speaker 2, on behalf of Shelley Hancock, Member for South Coast
Peter was not permitted to speak for Shelley on the grounds that he had spoken earlier. But a letter from Shelley was tabled (see concluding remarks).
8. Evelyn Pettigrew, Secretary Tomerong Community Forum
Ev spoke of the effect the proposal has already had on the Tomerong community She described how the proposed development had consumed the energies of many residents, taking them away from their normal family, work and community activities. She spoke of Tomerong’s heritage and assets and stressed that residents were determined to ensure these were not “trashed”.
Ev also spoke of the burden processing the DA has put on SCC and how much more positive it would be if these energies were put into assessing an eco-centric tourist facility. She suggested Tomerong Waste might become Tomerong Tourism.
She also noted that the community was disappointed that the original intent of the ILC land grant of “a focal cultural and economic centre for Aboriginal people across the Shoalhaven” had not been realised.
At this point the mayor, Paul Green, who was observing the proceedings, was invited in to speak. Paul supported the meeting and felt sure that the panel would hear the strong messages being given by the community.
9. Dave Reynolds, President of Jervis Bay Tourism
Dave parodied the Old Spice add currently causing amusement around the world (Google the Youtube of it if you haven’t seen it). He put up a beautiful photo of Jervis bay and held up the proponent’s plan, saying “Look at the picture, now look at the plan”. He made the point that you can’t have a toxic tip AND tourists. People do not come to visit a tip. This WILL:: affect tourism, indeed even the perception that there will be a tip here is dismaying. It simply does not sit compatibly with the clean green image Shoalhaven Tourism sell
10. Rebecca Rudd and Maureen Webb, Basin Village Forum
Rebecca said that all her time working on different issues in the area she has never seen such a consensus of opposition. Indeed she has not struck one voice supporting the proposal. She reiterated the issues with extra trucks, noting that it is the local community who will need to pay extra rates to repair roads not built for such traffic. It is totally unacceptable to propose building a wall 5m high in an environmentally sensitive area. She noted that climate change predictions expect that the local area will have increased rainfall, further adding to the problems of leachate leaks and spills.
She said that eventually, when the tip is full and we have a hill of toxic waste, the proponent suggests that it could be used as grassland for parks and grazing cattle. This just does not make sense – how many of us want our children playing on top of toxic waste, or want to drink milk from cows grazing there?
She refuted the idea that the tip is supported or wanted by local councils, as the proponent tries to claim. Further, she noted that if it were council developing such a facility, they would have to go through a huge process of consultation and would be required to investigate a range of sites before picking one. However in this case it is the community who are having to put in the work.
Maureen spoke of the importance of St Georges Basin water quality. It has 15 wetlands supporting rare plants and animals. Its restricted water flow means pollutants entering are not easily flushed. The Healthy Rivers Report showed that the Basin needs assessment already, due to encroaching development. It is highly susceptible to algal bloom and other damage and it is unacceptable that further pollutants be added.
11. Richard Campbell, Representing the Campbell Family
Richard, flanked by other family members, said that indigenous families had not been given the opportunity to consult. He questioned the legality of using the land for this purpose and requested the panel to look carefully into these legal issues.
12. Lester Shute, on behalf of Gumden Lane residents, St Georges Basin
Lester spoke about the direct impact this proposal is having on the residents of Gumden Lane. The first shock came with the original letter from Council about the DA, this being the first the residents had heard about it. This was followed up recently with a new proposal to built a 5m high wall, leaving residents dumbfounded.
He then spoke in detail about the noise barrier proposal. He had erected a 5m high framework on the side of the road and had himself photographed next to it, to give some idea of how huge this would be and the visual impact.
The wall proposal was very confusing. It does not say what the wall would be constructed of by gives 3 possibilities. The location was described incorrectly as Gumden Lane (later amended) and there were numerous other inconsistencies. The wall would create a major blind spot for trucks trying to negotiate a corner. There is much local wild life, including kangaroos, who will be confronted by a wall when they try to use their usual tracks. There will be water flow problems, and if the wall is built over the existing swale and a drain pipe is laid down this will increase water flow velocity into Tomerong Creek with resulting erosion and silt damage.
13. Barbara Woodney, President, Kangaroo Valley Community Association
Barbara spoke of the effect this proposal would have on Kangaroo Valley, and noted that it will also have serious traffic effects through Berry. Trucks travelling through Kangaroo Valley have to negotiate narrow, winding roads and U-bends on the mountains at both ends of the valley. There are already frequent accidents when trucks fall off the road, involving local rescue crews in hauling people, goods and vehicles back up the mountain. It seems likely that material will fall off trucks delivering waste, and also that there will be accidents involving these trucks, resulting in waste spillage on the mountains. There are also enormous queues which build up behind trucks. Hampden Bridge, an important historic bridge, has weight restrictions. Will these trucks meet these restrictions?
This is a private business for private gain. Taxpayers will bear the burden of the road repairs, rescues and remediation of damage from spills.
14. Tom Butler, Representing the Butler Family
Tom expressed the concerns of many local aboriginal families that they have not had a say. He tabled a letter from Laddie Timbery which Pam Allan read to the meeting. He and Richard Campbell presented the panel with the gift of a boomerang with the inscription “No Tip” made by Laddie .
Pam Allan assured the meeting that she will be talking to council about these land issue, starting immediately.
15. Anita Morgan, on behalf of Parnell Road residents
Anita spoke about the impact of further dust and atmospheric debris on the local rainwater. She explained that Parnell Rd residents are totally dependent on rainwater tanks. She is deeply concerned that their only source of drinking water will become contaminated with heavy metals, causing serious health issues.
She also noted that recently during heavy rain she could see water running off the property, underlining that waste leachate will not be contained.
Will the proponents be offering compensation or buyouts to the residents? This proposal offers only disaster.
16. Annette Bevan, Vincentia High School P & C
Annette focussed on the risk to local children on the roads. Vincentia High School has very active Mountain bike and triathlon clubs, with more that 100 children enrolled in each. They are also involved in Riding to School programs which encourage children to ride their bikes to school and include local feeder primary schools. Due to this, large numbers of children are riding bikes and doing training runs along local roads including those which will be used by the increased number of B trucks.
17. Frances Bray, Jervis Bay Regional Alliance Inc.
Frances travelled from Culburra to present the views of her association. The main problem is the leachate. The project is not consistent with the principles of sustainable development. There is no evidence of management plans for heavy rain events or contingency plans for problems. Quarry blasting is planned to continue nearby. Pollutants WILL get into the groundwater.
The project is in conflict with ecological, planning, social and tourism requirements.
18. Mark Corrigan, Vice President, Vincentia Ratepayers and Residents Association
Vincentia is downstream from the pollution. It may seem as though the traffic problems will not affect Vincentia residents as much but in fact they need to drive through the feeder roads and along the highway too. Mark pointed out that in thinking of 40 extra trucks a day people may forget that in fact traffic forms into clumps and there will often be queues of trucks moving together – imagine this on the Island Point Rd/Pacific Highway corner, which has already seen more than its share of accidents including at least one fatality.
Consider the costs and benefits. There are some situations in which industry produces some degradation in towns, but the residents accept this due to the large benefits. However in this case there are no benefits at all to residents or the general public. The only benefits are to the proponent, and the community would have to bear the costs.
What is going into the site? The proponents misleadingly use the words “inert” and “non-putrescible” as if they mean the same thing They do not! Non-putrescible materials can produce chemical reactions resulting in toxic materials. Recirculation as proposed will cause concentration of the leachate. As an engineer, Mark is confident that the geo-membrane will fail and the systems will not work in perpetuity.
19. Alan W Stephenson, National Conservation Officer, Australasian Native Orchid Society
Allan spoke about, in his words, the “alleged” environmental assessment. He focussed particularly on orchids to demonstrate that the assessment was woefully inadequate. The assessment was carried out in 3 hours in one day in May 2009, in the driest year for 20 years. In May, 80% of orchids would not be out, and not even leaves would be present, so they could not be found. The assessment provided a list of orchids with many marked as “habitat unsuitable”. Alan provided photographic evidence that many of these have been found in wide varieties of environments including environments similar to those in the area.
He asked what would be done to ensure that trucks coming from distant areas would not bring in contaminating weeds such as Patersons Curse.
He also noted that insects which pollinate orchids typically fly close to the ground at 50 cm to 1m, and would not be able to get past a 5m barrier.
20. John Hatton, Former member for South Coast
John praised the previous presentations. He had never before seen such compelling, thorough research presented so well. He warmly thanked the two representatives of indigenous families for their contributions, recognising that they had needed to address sensitive issues of culture and family before speaking out publicly.
He was disgusted that DECCW had not sent a representative. Their report seemed be simply a bureaucratic ticking of boxes which had today been discredited, tick by tick. There had been no chance to direct questions to DECCW.
He was deeply concerned at the evidence presented of illegal clearing and dam construction and non-compliance with many conditions of the current operation. He called upon the council and DECCW to investigate these issues and pursue prosecution.
This proposal will affect generations yet unborn and it is our responsibility to stop it.
He told the panel that, notwithstanding his respect for them they would be discredited if they were to approve this project.
21. Andrew Harvey
Andrew said that governments have responsibility to protect the environment. The decision-making process must be transparent.
He also made the point that he considers that the risk of air pollution has been understated. He believes that due to prevailing high winds, especially at certain times of year, the drop zone for dust will be well beyond the 2 km zone suggested.
22. Patricia Kahler
Patricia spoke of the need to consider climate change.
Pam Allan read a letter from Shelley in which she raised issues including:
Increased truck movements
Waste coming from long distances
Unacceptable waste types including lead
Contamination of creeks, and
The surprise turnaround of DECCW which had originally raised what seemed like insurmountable objections.
Pam then closed the meeting. She thanked all the speakers and expressed appreciation of the high quality of the presentations. She said that the council report to the panel is expected to be complete by about the end of September. The panel will take on board all new points raised.