Lithgow Silicon Smelter
Mr R. H. L. SMITH (Bega) [4.31 p.m.]: I draw to the attention of the House a proposed major development in my electorate. I refer to the Lithgow silicon smelter project, a major new industry for the State. The project consists of three separate components: the smelter at Lithgow, the quartz mine near Cowra, and a charcoal plant near Mogo, in my electorate. It is the third component, the charcoal plant in my electorate, that I wish to bring to the attention of the House. My office has been inundated with telephone calls and letters from people who are extremely concerned about this development. They believe their objections will not be given due consideration because of the facilitating role played by the State Government, which has designated this development as one of State significance. It is because of this view that I bring to the attention of the House the issues raised with me.
The electorate of Bega is noted for the beauty of its natural environment: clean air, clean beaches, clean waterways and stunning views. People are concerned that these values may be compromised by the proposed charcoal plant. Another major concern is increased heavy traffic on the Princes Highway. I have spoken many times in this House about the poor condition of the highway. It must be upgraded to accommodate heavy vehicles and minimise the impact of a major development of this type, particularly on Mogo. Of particular concern to many constituents is the impact of increased traffic on the small village of Mogo, just south of Batemans Bay. Mogo is a major tourist attraction. Not only is it a quaint village, but the tourist developments of Old Mogo Town and Mogo Zoo are significant drawcards. It is imperative, therefore, that the operation of the charcoal plant not disadvantage the major industry of tourism in the area.
People have also written to me about the source of timber that will be required for the plant. It must be remembered that this Government eventually signed the regional forest agreement [RFA] covering this area, and that resources required for the plant must fit totally within the guidelines of this RFA. Another concern is the visual impact of the factory. The major process to be carried out at the site will involve the drying and treating of the timber. It is essential that the site be adequately screened so that the gateway from the south to what is known as the nature coast does not give the appearance of an industrial plant. Perhaps the single most important concern for those who have contacted me is possible pollution.
People have yet to be convinced that their pristine waterways and atmosphere will not be put at risk. They believe that the process of manufacturing charcoal will result in the leeching of impurities into waterways, and that toxic substances will emanate from the stacks into the atmosphere. The Lithgow silicon smelter project is heralded as a major new business that will create 250 new jobs and contribute $4 billion to the nation's economy over the life of the project. In my electorate the number of direct jobs will be in the order of 50, with a flow-on effect of approximately 120 in total. New industries and new jobs are welcome news, but it is important that new jobs do not jeopardise existing ones. Over recent weeks representatives from the State Government and the company involved, Australian Silicon, have attended several large public meetings.
From the volume of letters and telephone calls I continue to receive, it is obvious that the information provided at these meetings by the main players in the proposal has failed to convince people about the desirability of this new industry in their neighbourhood. People believe that to date the State Government has completely disregarded their views. They require reassurance that all their objections will be fully considered as part of the development application process. I therefore call on the State Government to guarantee that the objections of my constituents about increased traffic on the Princes Highway, possible pollution of waterways and the atmosphere, visual impact of the plant and timber resources are fully considered before any approval is given to Australian Silicon's proposed charcoal plant at Mogo.
Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.36 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Bega for bringing this matter before the House and, in doing so, raising the concerns of a number of his constituents about the charcoal plant at Mogo—traffic management, visual pollution, environmental impacts and potential impact on the timber resource. I imagine that these matters would be dealt with within a comprehensive environmental impact statement. I will certainly ensure that this matter is put before the Minister.