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)

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