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Back to the drawing board

THE University of WA and the Water Corporation will head back into mediation talks despite an initial failure to resolve their long-running dispute over university land in Shenton Park.

However, though the parties hope to return to the discussion table soon, UWA will progress its multi-million-dollar legal action against the Water Corporation over bad smells from its Shenton Park sewage processing plant.

In a Supreme Court writ issued in December 1999, UWA claimed it was unable to subdivide and sell 28.5ha of land, worth up to $80 million, due to offensive odours coming from the nearby plant

Before heading into mediation, the university wanted the Water Corporation to reduce the impact of the odours or, if this is not poss-ible, cease operations all together. The plant has been operating for more than 70 years.

UWA property administration manager Wayne Brown declined to comment on what was discussed during the mediation talks, held earlier this month, but said he hoped the issue could be resolved outside of the courtroom.

“There was no outcome ... but there will be further discussions with the Water Corporation and we hope that we can resolve this satisfactorily,” Mr Brown said.

“We will proceed with our court action but we will withdraw it if a solution is found.

“Otherwise we will be heading to the courts some time next year.”

Water Corporation spokesman Paul Byrne said the talks produced no satisfactory outcome and negotiations would continue.

The land at the centre of the controversy was endowed to the Nedlands-based institution in 1909 and is presently used as a research park by the university’s zoology and botany departments.

UWA wants to subdivide 20ha of the land into 260 residential blocks however, because it falls within the sewage plant’s 600m buffer zone, the Water Corporation will not guarantee that any new residents would not be adversely affected by odours.

The parcel of land is bordered by Brockway Road, Underwood Avenue and Selby Street, and its sale would be likely to bring the university between $60 million and $80 million. About 8ha of land will be preserved for conservation purposes.

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