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Long-running land stink goes to mediation

THE University of WA and the Water Corporation are heading into mediation talks in a bid to resolve their long-running dispute over university land in Shenton Park, worth up to $80 million.

The proceedings, which are the first step before court action, will begin in the first week of November and will centre on the issue of odour management at the Water Corporation’s Shenton Park wastewater treatment plant.

The mediation follows a Supreme Court writ issued in December 1999.

The university complained that offensive odours from the plant meant it was unable to develop its 28.5ha parcel of land, located adjacent to the plant.

The university wants the Water Corporation to reduce the impact of the odours or, if this was not possible, cease the plant’s operations altogether.

The land was endowed to the university in 1909 and is presently used as a research park by the university’s zoology and botany departments.

UWA plans to subdivide 20ha of the land into 260 residential blocks ranging in size from 400sqm to 650sqm.

A development submission for the subdivision of the land is expected to be lodged with the City of Nedlands within weeks.

UWA property administration manager Wayne Brown estimated the sale of this land would bring the university between $60 and $80 million.

Brown said UWA was simply insisting the Water Corporation reduce its odour emissions from the plant.

“We are saying that the technology exists to decrease the odours to a reasonable point,” Mr Brown said.

However, a spokesperson from the Water Corporation said the organisation had already spent million on reducing odours so that existing houses were not affected.

“But the Water Corporation can not guarantee that any new houses will not be adversely affected,” he said. “The residential development would fall within the plant’s 600m buffer zone, which is a reasonable buffer zone requirement.”

Mr Brown hoped both parties would be able to reach an agreement during the mediation proceedings but said the university was prepared to continue into court if need be.

Mr Brown said that, considering the time and effort UWA had put into drawing up plans for the area, its favoured position was to develop the land for residential use.

However, an appropriate offer of comp-ensation for the land may be considered, he said.

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