Sixty residents of Fawkner, a northern suburb of Melbourne, attended a meeting on August 27 to hear an update on the campaign against the proposed redevelopment of the site of the former Nufarm chemical factory.
One of the chemicals made in the factory was Agent Orange, which was used by the United States during the Vietnam War. Local resident Sally Beattie told the meeting Agent Orange is still causing birth defects in Vietnam today.
Long-term resident Roma Mawby said many people in the area had died of cancer, including one of her children. Fish died in the creek beside the factory and birds had disappeared.
There was a partial clean-up after the factory closed. A clay cap was placed over the site. Residents are concerned that any new construction work will breach the clay cap and bring contaminated soil to the surface again.
Chairperson Tash Wark told the meeting Moreland Council's Urban Planning Committee had deferred a decision on the application for a permit for construction work on the site.
Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton said council officers had recommended approval, subject to an environmental audit of the site. However she expressed doubts about the adequacy of such an audit and said there needs to be a thorough audit before any decision is taken on the application.
Bolton also told the meeting there is no certainty any conditions imposed on the development would be adequately policed.
After the meeting, residents walked to the toxic site where they planted plastic flowers as a tribute to the pain and suffering of the Fawkner residents, who, when the chemical factory was operating, could not grow plants in their gardens and resorted to planting plastic flowers instead.