The System is Broken

Please, let me share a story which illustrates a failing in our State planning & environmental systems.

You may be aware of the proposed concrete batching plant in Bayswater. It is in close proximity to residential houses, and I have previously covered why I believe the application should never have been approved in that location; so I won’t repeat the reasons again.

Instead I will focus on just one thing which illustrates that the system is stacked against the community.

After council refused planning approval for the plant back in 2011, the applicant took it to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT). SAT were told that the average daily production of the plant would be 135m3 and a maximum of 500m3 on a few days of the year. The subsequent modelling of the potential dust emissions from the plant, which SAT used in their decision making before approving the plant in 2014, was based on these figures, and found to be within acceptable limits.

A request for the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to assess the proposal was refused by the EPA in March 2016. They formed this decision based on the modelling results (which SAT also used) and the fact that “the maximum rate of production of 500 m3/day only occurring one to two days per year”.

An appeal to the (then) Minister for Environment (via the Appeals Convenor) to overturn the EPA decision was refused in August 2016. As can be seen in the below portion of the letter from the Minister, again the average daily production rate of 135m3, and 500m3 a few days of the year, was referenced.

Minister’s letter – August 2016

Why then, seeing as the SAT modelling, EPA and Minister all relied on the 135m3 and 500m3 figures, did the Department of Regulation (DER) grant a Works Approval in January 2017 for a plant to be built which can produce 365,000 tonnes per year?

DER Works Approval – January 2017

135m3 production for 6 days of every week, gives an annual figure of 42,120 m3. This equates to around 100,000 tonnes. Even if we allow for 20 days of the year to be at 500 m3 it comes to about 120,000 tonnes p/a.

I have been advised by the DER that the Works Approval authorises construction of the plant and that the applicant will then need to apply for registration with DER to operate the plant. And that “registrations do not contain any conditions, such as those limiting production. Similarly, the Environmental Protection (Concrete Batching and Cement Product Manufacturing) Regulations 1998 will apply to the operations; these do not contain production limits.”

So, despite all the modelling undertaken, and all the commentary on an average of 135m3 daily production, it appears that the applicant can build a plant capable of producing three times that amount, and if granted approval, can actually produce that amount.

It is worrying that section 87 of SAT’s Decision to approve revised plans on 14 December 2016 states,  “the Tribunal is satisfied that the conditions and regulatory framework can manage the amenity impacts”.

How can they be satisfied of this?

I shall write to the new Minister for Environment (Stephen Dawson MLC) and new Minister for Planning (Rita Saffioti MLA) to seek their views on this issue. Hopefully they will be able to come up with a method to limit production to what was assessed and has been constantly referred to – 135m3 and a maximum of 500m3 on a few days of the year.

Power to the People.

(Please be aware that these views are my own and have not been endorsed by the City of Bayswater)

Previous – 12 November 2015 –
Previous – 30 March 2016 –
Previous – 11 May 2016 –
Previous – 19 August 2016 –

6 thoughts on “The System is Broken

  1. Unbelievable! These guys got a ‘no’ from local council so went over its head and found a dept who would say ‘yes’ or perhaps a beurocrat too busy to read the documentation before he signs it. State and federal govt has become a large corrupt unworkable mess. When’s the revolution?

  2. Thank Christ we have 2 Councillors who are active and doing their upmost to protect the ratepayers of our City.
    My comment.
    This particular batching plant is planed, built and capable to produce up to 180m3 per hour. WA Premix write in their DER application they will only be batching at an average rate of 135m3 per day.
    My question.
    Who is going to be responsible for ensuring WA Premix do not exceed their DER licenced agreement of 135m3 per day?

  3. Chris,

    Did you have a comment in relation to these articles?

    As a ratepayer of the City of Bayswater not directly affected by these works, I find the wanton blatant waste of $112,000 of ratepayers money disgusting.

    Like most people, I have no wish to live next door to a concrete plant, or an industrial area for that matter, and I feel for the residents in the area who have had to cop a lot of grief from other polluting industries in that particular area over many years. However, instead of accepting the umpire’s decision in 2014 and moving on, you rejected the council officers’ and Bayswater’s own legal advice, and carried on with futile #sackthesat arguments, and chasing media exposure at Joan Rycroft Reserve and Parliament House.

    You were also one of the 6 councillors who voted against the batch plant the second time in 2015, in clear contravention of all of the paid advice supplied to the council.

    If you had any sense of remorse for your actions, you would repay the $19,000 of wasted ratepayer dollars for your share of the disastrous vote which led to this recent SAT decision. However, I won’t be holding my breath.

    I want council representation that respects the ratepayer dollar, instead of councillors going on pointless crusades which get might get media exposure and a few pats on the back from activist residents, but disrespects the silent majority who work hard to feed money into the council treasure chest.

    I hope you can live up to that next time a vote of this nature comes to council Chris.

    Power to the People??

    1. Hello James,
      Yes I do have comments on the articles in The West. I won’t discuss why SAT shouldn’t have approved the plant in the first place; hopefully everyone agrees why they shouldn’t have. First, naturally I am extremely disappointed with the end result, including costs. I asked at the time that this came to council why we had to reconsider the decision, and was told that when SAT asks, we pretty much must. After reading this SAT Decision, it becomes apparent that councils can decline their ‘invitation’ to reconsider. This should prevent a similar thing from happening again.
      With regards to the Sept 2015 council decision which led to the costs being awarded, I believe the issues were thoroughly considered. If we had recordings back then I would hope SAT would acknowledge the debate and points raised, and not have awarded the costs. For me personally, I agreed that the new plant was superior to the initial one; it clearly was. However, I did not believe that the existing approval for the inferior plant should be taken into account; rather (and this is the point Barry was probably trying to make at the SAT hearing) is that it is a brand new application and as such the initial plant approval should be disregarded. If that were the case, then the new application could be looked at afresh, and all the reasons there shouldn’t be a noxious plant there could be factored in. I also did not believe that the applicant would build the initial plant. I didn’t believe the environmental dust/sound conditions in the 2014 SAT approval could be met with an open plant, and I base this on the rationale that no corporate entity would increase the cost of their plant from $2 million to $6 million for no reason.
      Development Approvals are given a set time to be ‘substantially commenced’. This is normally 2 years, and was the case for the initial approval. The reason for this is because things change in an area, and potentially the development no longer becomes suitable. I was cognizant that things had changed since the initial approval – 1. the nearby Cleanaway transfer station had decided to seek a new home and there was talk of an opportunity to start changing that side of Collier Rd to say offices; this would be a logical change due to that side being close to the houses, and Collier Rd could act as the barrier between the industrial area. 2. In addition, since the initial approval a new business started up right next door, AbelWestchem, which is sensitive to dust emissions and hence should be classed as a ‘sensitive land use’.
      With regards to following expert advice, yes it is always a good place to start. But it needs to be disputed sometimes, otherwise why have a council or community views – just leave it to the experts.There was no “contravention”.
      With regards to the ‘pointless crusade’, if the vote carried no weight, and was pointless, why did SAT even send it back to council?

      1. Thanks for your response Chris,

        Unfortunately in most of your response you have not responded to the newspaper articles, but just repeated the same arguments that were comprehensively rejected by SAT. Repeating an argument doesn’t make it any more correct; clearly the judge thought the same, as costs were awarded against the city.

        I agree with your comment about disputing expert advice sometimes; except that this wasn’t a one off rejection of advice – council consistently went against the advice of its officers and legal advice every time the subject site was involved. The council would not have lost face if it accepted the plant in the September 2015 vote, given the information before the vote was plain to see to all councillors that Bayswater would be up for substantial costs if it was rejected again.

        I can only assume SAT sent it back to council to encourage it to make the correct decision at the local level, before sending the matter back up to them and clogging up their courts again with this matter.

        While we may agree to disagree, I applaud your courage to have this blog set up and take / respond to criticism, not many councillors in the state would do the same. I wish you well Chris.

  4. Chris Cornish is one of a handful of councillors that tells the truth as he sees it and does not move around the community searching out information about ratepayers and their family with no validity then takes it to Council to big note themselves with a bunch of lies he is out front and honest.

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