09/08/2017 - 10:59

Residential builds to be blocked under Port Hedland dust plan

09/08/2017 - 10:59

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About a third of the town of Port Hedland should be blocked from any new residential developments, the state government's dust management taskforce has recommended.

The report is in response to dust levels in the west end of Port Hedland generated by iron ore operations in the area. Photo: BHP

About a third of the town of Port Hedland should be blocked from any new residential developments, the state government's dust management taskforce has recommended.

The state government has released the taskforce’s report on managing dust levels in Port Hedland, and will seek public submissions until October before formally considering the proposals.

The report has recommended a ‘special control area’ over the west end of Port Hedland, which would prevent any further permanent residential development on land west of Taplin Street, and limit sensitive land uses between Taplin Street and McGregor Street/Lukis Street.

Sensitive land uses include developments such as childcare centres and aged care facilities.

It also recommended exporters in the area - such as BHP, which has iron ore stockpiles close to the town - continue to reduce dust emissions at the port and be subject to more intense risk-based regulation.

Other exporters, such as Fortescue Metals Group and Roy Hill Holdings, have their stockpiles away from the town.

The proposed special control area would effectively end Finbar Group’s plans to develop $390 million complex comprising 507 residential apartments and 163 short-stay apartments on the site of the old Port Hedland hospital, for which it had already received development approval.

The sale of the site was subject to Finbar receiving sufficient pre-sales.

The report follows the Town of Port Hedland’s rejection of recommendations drafted by the dust management taskforce in November last year, with Mayor Camillo Blanco saying at the time that the recommendations weren’t in the best interests of the community.

In a statement today, Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the report also had a bearing on the future of the marina development plan in Port Hedland.

“We have made clear that the $112 million state government commitment to the project will remain allocated to Hedland, however we are open to considering redirection to other projects,” she said.

“The recommendations of this report will have a major impact on the future of Port Hedland and our government will work with local residents and businesses to achieve the best possible outcome for the community, acknowledging that iron ore exports underpin the economic prosperity of the town.

"The state government will provide a formal response to this report based on public submissions received and the outcomes of our deliberative democracy forum."

Mr Blanco endorsed the report today, saying it was encouraging to see the challenges of dust management being put back on the table.

“The town has been working closely with our industry and the state government partners to address all key issues,” he said.

“Specially, we’ve been focusing on achieving a balance between the economic development of the west end, job creation and the environmental and social prosperity of the town.

“This issue is simply not going to go away. We need to look at a whole of community process, think outside the box and assign the best possible resources.”

The proposal was also met with praise by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, which said the plan acted in the best interests of the long-term future of the region.

Chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said the recommendations balanced the significant economic contribution of the port and its potential for growth with the interests of the community.

“Importantly, the report clearly highlights the crucial role of sound land-use planning by recommending a special control area be established to prevent new residential dwellings and population growth immediately adjacent to the world’s largest export facility,” he said.

“It is also pleasing to see industry’s significant dust management improvements have been recognised.

“These efforts have allowed iron ore exports to nearly treble over the past seven years while air quality in the region has in fact improved.”

Mr Howard-Smith said more than 3,000 people are directly employed at the port, where 500 million tonnes of material was exported through in the last financial year.

“The port is a vital asset for the state’s $54 billion iron ore industry. This clear set of recommendations will allow both the port and the community to prosper well into the future,” he said.

The Port Hedland Industries Council also welcomed the recommendations, and encouraged all stakeholders to support the changes.

A spokesperson said the proposal took a balanced approach to addressing the competing priorities of multiple stakeholders.

“Industry acknowledges community concerns and is committed to working with the government and the community to ensure the long-term prosperity of Port Hedland,” the spokesperson said.

“There is no disputing the value of industry to the local community, the state and the nation.

“The resources industry in the Pilbara is the powerhouse of economic growth for Western Australian and the Port Hedland Port is central to that.”

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