More than 1500 people, including some who travelled hundreds of kilometres from the Eyre Peninsula and the Flinders Ranges, gathered outside Parliament House in Adelaide on December 2 for the Don’t Dump on SA rally.
The rally was called to highlight concerns over federal government plans to build a national nuclear waste storage facility on Wallerberdina Station near Barndioota in the Flinders Ranges or Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula. Some of this nuclear waste is toxic for tens of thousands of years. All of it all poses risks to the environment, to nearby communities and to thousands of people along transport routes.
Communities near the proposed sites for the dump do not want local tourism and farming industries threatened. Traditional Owners do not want cultural heritage sites and their spiritual connection to country put at risk. The issue has caused deep division and stress in the affected communities.
Nuclear waste dumps are illegal in SA: After earlier moves to dump waste in SA the Nuclear Waste Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000 was passed. The Act states its objective is “to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of South Australia and to protect the environment in which they live by prohibiting the establishment of certain nuclear waste storage facilities in this state.”
A range of speakers, including members of the affected communities, politicians, trade unionists, representatives of faith groups and youth representatives, addressed the rally. Adnyamathanha woman Vivianne Mckenzie and the Australian Conservation Foundation's Dave Sweeney chaired the rally.
A welcome to Kaurna country was followed by performances by Port Augusta indigenous dance group the Dusty Feet Mob and Rise Up Singers.
Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association chair Vince Coulthard said: “The Flinders Ranges is an iconic area that people come from all over the world to visit. I’m saddened to hear that the government wants to spoil this beautiful, pristine area with a devastating piece of junk. We certainly understand that there has to be somewhere they can store it, but you don’t take a pristine area and destroy that. We ask that the state government stand with the Adnyamathanha community to stop this waste dump.”
Flinders Ranges GP Dr Susi Andersson said: “The Flinders Ranges is not the right place for any nuclear waste facility. The purported benefits of this dump, if realised, will equal only 1% of jobs in tourism and just 2% of one year of tourism income for the Flinders Ranges and outback. Any drop in tourism will wipe out any possible economic benefit.
“Everyone, including the government and ANSTO [Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation], agree that the Flinders is not suitable for long term disposal of intermediate level waste, but that is where it will be stored until another site is proposed, accepted and built. This may take decades or centuries and may never happen.
“We are creating a toxic legacy for our children and grandchildren. Safeguards and legislation put in place today will be brushed aside when it’s convenient for future governments. This can never be the right place to bring intermediate level waste.”
Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie, who lives next door to the nominated site in the Flinders ranges, said: “United, Aboriginal people, farmers, unions and others will fight this dump and together we will win.”
Tom Harris, who has been farming in Kimba for more than 50 years, said: “If we allow a waste dump in the heart of the Eyre Peninsula, imagine what the overseas buyers are going to say about our grain. It doesn’t matter whether it does affect it, it’s going to be the insinuation.
“It’s not only the grain exports. You’ve got to realise there’s the fishing industry at Port Lincoln, there’s oysters out of Cowell. The Eyre Peninsula is isolated, but it’s a very healthy, productive area for South Australia and creates a lot of wealth — a lot more wealth than any waste dump could ever provide for SA.
“Only 4% of Australia’s land mass is good productive land for growing food. How could anyone be that dumb to want to put a waste dump in the heart of that 4%? We must stop this waste dump in SA. I don’t want to put that at risk for everybody in SA and we shouldn’t, so let’s stop the dump.”
Kimba farmer Kate Freeth said: “My family’s property neighbours one of the proposed sites targeted for a dump for our nation’s nuclear waste. My family has been farming in the Kimba district for over 100 years. My brother will be the fourth generation to farm our land. Kimba is the centre of a major agricultural area hosting one of SA’s largest inland grain terminals. It’s a town that is largely supported and maintained by the local farmers.
“The idea of a nuclear waste facility not only threatens our primary industry, it threatens our community. I have watched the community that I grew up in be divided by a process that has already taken up two years of their lives. Some of you say it’s out of harm’s way, it’s in the middle of nowhere. Well, that middle of nowhere is my family’s backyard. You wouldn’t want it in your backyard. So stand with me and fight with me.”
Former Liberal member for the Kimba area Barry Wakelin said: “I was the member of parliament that tried to get the last dump on the road at Woomera. The Kimba experience has taught me a very great amount. Quite frankly, the government and ANSTO cannot be trusted with this job. They cannot be trusted with the management of nuclear waste.”
Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia SA Branch Jamie Newlyn said: “We stand with Traditional Owners of this land, we stand with the farmers of this land”.
Leader of SA Greens Mark Parnell and Nick Xenophon Team Senator Rex Patrick also spoke at the rally, and Labor MP for Giles Eddie Hughes sent a message of support.
With the defeat earlier this year of Premier Jay Weatherill’s plan to store the world’s nuclear waste in South Australia and with so many people speaking out against the federal government’s proposal, nuclear waste is sure to be a major issue in the state election in March.