New industrial park stirs opposition

Issue 

By Jon Singer

PERTH - The state Trades and Labour Council, the WA Conservation Council and local residents are opposing the state Labor government's plan for a major heavy industrial park on the coast north of Perth. The new site would pose a major threat to the environment and to existing economic activities in the area.

Proposals for the site's location are Wilbinga, 70 km north of Perth, or Breton Bay, another 30 km along the coast. But Breton Bay appears to be the favoured site, because Wilbinga is close to the towns of Two Rocks and Yanchep. There is already a proposal for a port complex at Breton Bay.

The plan arose after it became clear that the environmental and social costs of further development of the existing heavy industrial complex at Kwinana were too great. Water off Kwinana and in nearby Cockburn Sound is Perth's most polluted. Unsafe conditions at Kwinana Beach forced 160 residents to move in 1985.

Proposed industries for the new park include an oil refinery, titanium refining and sodium cyanide plants and fertiliser factories on 50 square kilometres, of which 30 square kilometres, currently farmland, are supposed to form a buffer zone.

But the experience of Kwinana suggests pollution would spread much further, local farmers Eddy and Yvonne Scott told Green Left. The prevailing winds could carry airborne pollutants into local state forest, part of which is used by beekeepers; into the Moore River, which then runs down to the sea at Guilderton, south of Breton Bay; and onto farmland, including farms established to produce organically grown fruit and vegetables for export.

The required upgrading of roads and building of a rail link would also contribute to land degradation. Industrial usage would tax ground water supplies.

Construction of a deepwater port and massively increased shipping threaten to destroy the local marine environment and the livelihood of people in the fishing villages of Ledge Point and Seabird on either side of Breton Bay. A $200 million dollar crayfish export industry has developed along the 100 km of coastline around Guilderton, the crayfish breeding and living in the offshore Leschenault reefs.

Dredging and blasting for the port, breakwater and deepwater channels would destroy at least 800 hectares of fishing grounds and increase siltation. Shipping would bring pollution from both ballast and domestic waste. There is also the possibility of a ship running aground, with its fuel oil and cargo then polluting the area, as occurred with the Sanko Harvest off Esperance earlier this year.

Research by the West Australian also shows that it seems to be impossible to separate WA Inc from any aspect of government policy. Much of the land the government may seek to acquire is owned by subsidiaries of Dallhold, Alan Bond's private company, and of Clough, a major engineering company, and by the local mayor and the Catholic Church, to which the government recently granted 150 hectares of land at Alkimos, in the heart of the proposed development areas.

The TLC and the Conservation Council have proposed that new heavy industry be located in areas which already have an industrial base, such as Bunbury, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Albany or the Pilbara region. Local residents from Two Rocks to Ledge Point have backed this call and are organising petitions and letters against the proposed industrial site.

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Reprinted from Green Left, weekly progressive newspaper. May

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