Cessnock Waste Dump Proposal
CESSNOCK WASTE DUMP PROPOSAL
Mr NEILLY (Cessnock) [5.53 p.m.]: I speak to a petition which was tabled in the House earlier today. During my years as a member of Parliament it is the biggest petition I have handled; it was signed by 10,110 citizens of Cessnock. Because of possible non-resident signatories I have been assured that the petition has been completely endorsed by the residents of the Cessnock local government area. The petition sought that the attention of the Parliament be drawn to the objections of the petitioners to the dumping of any of Sydney’s domestic, commercial or industrial waste in the Cessnock local government area. The petition also urges the Legislative Assembly to inform the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning that it is the petitioners’ wish that any development application that is made in relation to a waste dump at Cessnock be rejected. The petition was presented to me publicly and one of the principal organisers, Mrs Hilary Oliver, told me that the residents want the State Government to intervene and to stop the proposal to dump Sydney garbage in Cessnock. She drew attention to a televised statement made by the Premier to anti-dump protesters on 23 March, when he visited Cessnock. The Premier said:
I might add that I was with the Premier on that occasion but when he spoke to one of the organisers, Mr Evan Phillips, a former union leader, he indicated that if the council did not want it the dump would not proceed. I understand that that related specifically to a proposal put forward by the New South Wales Waste Service. On that occasion Mrs Oliver pointed out that 30 per cent of registered voters in the Cessnock local government area had signed the anti-dump petition. She added that 750 signs are displayed throughout the local government area opposing the dump. I might add again that each of those signs has been paid for by local residents.
Hundreds of letters of objection have been sent to the council. The group, which meets fortnightly, has an active membership and wants the proposal, which it describes as abhorrent, to be scrapped. Cessnock City Council has been dealing with the New South Wales Waste Service in relation to this proposal, which at present is for a facility to be located on Crown land between Cessnock and the township of Neath. The land was formerly partly open-cut and partly hard-rock quarry. The proponents intend that 400,000 tonnes per annum of putrescible waste should be taken from Sydney by road and dumped there.
I listened to an address from Mr Evan Phillips on the occasion when the petition was presented. At the completion of Mr Phillips’ address I mentioned to him that it seemed to me a tad ironic that there is so much money in muck. I understand that it costs about $90 a tonne to take waste from Sydney and deposit or dispose of it and to remediate the site at a later time. At the same time coal is being exported from the port of Newcastle for a little under $US23 a tonne for spot sales. Recently some coal was sent out of the port for $US15 a tonne spot sales. It is ironic that waste has more than twice the value of coal. As far as I am concerned, the council has endorsed the proposal for an environmental impact study. I believe that some of the concerns of the people of Cessnock may be alleviated if an environmental impact study is undertaken. I believe the project should not proceed unless it bypasses Cessnock, because road transport must be orderly and obviate disruption to residents. In a democracy people are certainly entitled to an environmental impact study, after which the situation can be fully assessed. [Time expired.]
Ms ALLAN (Blacktown - Minister for the Environment) [5.57 p.m.]: I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the comprehensive petition which was presented to the House today by the honourable member for Cessnock on behalf of some 10,000 local constituents. I emphasise that the
final decision about whether a landfill proceeds at Cessnock will be made by my colleague the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning under State environmental planning policy 48, which makes him the consent authority for all major putrescible waste landfills. All members of the House would acknowledge that the location of a major landfill, particularly when the proposal involves the transportation of Sydney waste into country areas, is always a fairly controversial process.
The Waste Minimisation and Management Act has attempted to put in place a regime so that the need for these types of major putrescible landfills in the future is minimised. The Government is certainly undertaking major works and providing major resourcing to ensure that those types of landfills are simply not necessary. However, I reassure the honourable member for Cessnock that there will be a comprehensive environmental planning and assessment process before my colleague makes a decision.
I am very much aware of the strong and adamant opposition within his local community and I am very sensitive to that. Another community in the Hunter, Muswellbrook, is much more favourably disposed towards the location of a landfill within the municipality. I for one would happily support the location of a landfill site there if the Muswellbrook community regards it as an advantage. I have consistently believed that we should not force these types of operations on local communities if they do not want them. That is a strong message that I have given to the New South Wales Waste Service.
We are not forcing this on you. If the community doesn’t want it, the community won’t get it.