Rhodes Peninsula Redevelopment

About this Item
SpeakersCohen The Hon Ian; Harwin The Hon Don; Macdonald The Hon Ian
BusinessBusiness of the House


Page: 17806

    The Hon. IAN COHEN [11.38 a.m.]: I move:
        1. That the Standing Committee on State Development inquire into and report on plans, including Sydney regional environment plan 29, for redevelopment and remediation of the Rhodes Peninsula, and in particular:
            (a) the extent of land and water contamination at Rhodes and other contaminated land in the vicinity and the waters of Homebush Bay,

            (b) the necessity for remediation of contaminated land and water, including the former Union Carbide site and land subject to reclamation in Homebush Bay,

            (c) the cost of remediation,

            (d) liability for the cost of remediation,

            (e) any risk to existing and future residents,

            (f) any risk to the environment, including terrestrial and marine fauna and flora,

            (g) the effectiveness of transport plans, taking into account the proposed density of future development,

            (h) the adequacy of public participation in the planning process,

            (i) the health impacts of remediation and development, including any effect on the health of workers employed at Rhodes,

            (j) any matters arising from, or incidental to, these terms of reference.

        2. That the committee report by 15 March 2002.
    This inquiry by the Standing Committee on State Development will enable an independent investigation to be carried out into issues of substantial community concern arising from plans for the redevelopment of the Rhodes peninsula. The local community has raised a number of issues about the planning process for the site. While the issues are very broad and the community's concerns are great, I will mention one, which relates to contamination, establishing the degree of toxicity and the nature and cause of contamination of the soil on lands at Rhodes covered by the Sydney regional environment plan [SREP] 29 and all sediments in Homebush Bay, when the Government became aware—or should have become aware—of the dangers of the method of reclamation being used by Union Carbide at Homebush Bay. There is a question as to who should be responsible for the cost of remediating these properties, when the Government became aware of the leaching of contaminated materials from the former Allied Feeds site into Homebush Bay, and whether appropriate and timely action was taken to prevent this contamination.

    In terms of secondary contamination, it is necessary to establish whether properties at Rhodes outside the area of SREP 29, Homebush Bay, including residential properties in Blaxland Road, Harrison Street and Alfred Street, and the Astraland site have been contaminated by materials similar to those contaminating the former Union Carbide, Meriton and Orica sites, and who should be responsible for the cost of remediating these properties. Also, it is necessary to establish the impacts of the proposed remediation and associated infrastructure, works and transport on the health and lifestyle of the residents in the area, including Rhodes, Meadowbank, Liberty Grove, Mariners Cove and Concord West; on aquatic life, flora and fauna in the surrounding area, including the Homebush Bay conservation area, Bicentennial Park, including wetlands, and Newington wetlands and woodlands; and on recreational and other users of the Parramatta River. It is important to establish the appropriate methods and standards of remediation and control of air, water and soil protection, having regard to world's best practice, and the results of similar remediation projects in Australia; and to review the adequacy of standards for protection of health and the environment when multiple contaminants are involved.

    The inquiry will review the planning processes, including provision of information to the local community, responses to submissions by the local community, involvement of the local community, including on committees regarding the determination of the director-general's requirements for the environmental impact statement and the development control plan [DCP] steering committee; to determine and compare common standards of density, transport, traffic and community infrastructure for populations, including residential, workers, shoppers and visitors, of a similar size to that proposed for the western side of Homebush Bay, in particular the adequacy of educational facilities, facilities for organised active recreation and riparian protection measures; and to review whether there was misleading conduct, negligence or unreasonable failure on the part of government or semi-government bodies or their consultants or proponents, and whether the removal of the RTA and local government from the consent process could reasonably be expected to prejudice the fairness of the outcomes of the planning and approval processes.

    The inquiry should review the assumptions, standards and methodology adopted in the preparation and conclusions of the draft and final SREP 29, development control plan, transport management plan and community development plan and the findings, conclusions and forecasts therein, any amendments made between exhibition and approval, and determine whether plans should have been re-exhibited as a result of substantial amendments. It is necessary to determine whether information on monitoring and enforcement of licences, approvals and conditions has been withheld from the local community, whether there have been failures in these areas by government bodies, whether the proposed methodology is adequate for the risks involved, particularly during remediation, and whether the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning has adequate infrastructure, staffing and experience to perform these tasks adequately, particularly having regard to its previous responses to allegations of breaches in the area and the scale of the works proposed.

    In terms of occupational health and safety, it is necessary to review the impacts on workers of previous remediation projects, including the Olympics site, the Union Carbide remediation, the complications of building on or occupying the Orica site whilst remediating the Union Carbide site, and the standards of occupational health and safety proposed in the light of world's best practice and the multiple contaminants involved. Many issues need to be carefully examined before any decisions are made about the redevelopment of this area. I received a briefing from the Waterways Authority, which has been carrying out remediation work on the former Union Carbide site. Many technical questions arise in relation to dioxin contamination on that site and the leaching of contaminants into the waters of Homebush Bay. I appreciate that the Waterways Authority has a substantial community consultation program under way in relation to that particular site.

    The problem is that one part of the peninsula cannot be considered in isolation from other parts. The whole area needs to be considered in an integrated way. The Government says a lot about integrated decision making but the reality is often very different. Also, the private companies involved, particularly Meriton, have no interest in resolving the contamination problems for the benefit of the community. They want to obtain development approval for their site as quickly as possible. These issues are too important for the Parliament to ignore. It is essential that a full public inquiry is carried out. Without an inquiry, the community will be unable to have confidence in the planning process for Rhodes. I understand that the inquiry is supported by the local council. It will be a constructive attempt to find solutions to some very important and difficult issues in that area of the community, including the important issue of toxic contamination.

    The Hon. DON HARWIN [11.45 a.m.]: The Opposition supports the reference to the Standing Committee on State Development the issue of the redevelopment and remediation of Rhodes peninsula. It is a matter of record that the Opposition supports local residents in the Rhodes area calling on the State Government to halt development in the area because of concerns about that area. There is little doubt that Rhodes peninsula is one of the most polluted sites in Australia. Local residents have major concerns about the intended management of toxic soils and sediments in the proposed development area. The Carr Government has seemingly reneged on its promise to local residents to establish a community reference committee to consider these issues. Earlier this year officers from the Department of Health, the Department of Land and Water Conservation, the Waterways Authority and the Environment Protection Authority met with residents and showed them a proposed reference committee membership list and draft terms of reference. However, six months on, there is still no reference committee.

    It would seem also that the local member, John Murray, has been missing in action on this issue. He has been completely silent on the concerns raised by his constituents about development in the area. The honourable member for Southern Highlands and the honourable member for Pittwater visited the site at the request of local councillors, including Councillor Joseph Tannous, the former mayor of Burwood, Councillor Carmel Del Duca, the current mayor of Canada Bay, and the very hard-working Canada Bay Councillor, Megan Lavender. On those occasions they met with residents to hear their concerns. In August the honourable member for Pittwater called on the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning to place a moratorium on development until an independent review of decontamination procedures had taken place. However, the State Government has failed to bring in independent expertise to review decontamination procedures, so it is appropriate that this House look more closely at this important issue. A reference to the Standing Committee on State Development is an appropriate way to proceed, and has the Opposition's support.

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD (Parliamentary Secretary) [11.47 a.m.]: The Government is happy to support this reference to the Standing Committee on State Development. I am sure that committee will be able to throw some light on the issues contained in the motion.

    Motion agreed to.