Community action group Save South Beach is claiming a victory over ASX-listed developer Stockland in relation to disclosure of information for a contaminated site.
Stockland is planning a residential development on a 22-hectare parcel of land in the South Fremantle/ Hamilton Hill area, which was the site of a lead smelter from 1898 to 1920.
Soil within a 2ha area of the smelter’s location is accepted to be heavily contaminated with lead and other heavy metals, making it necessary to remediate the site for residential development by excavating contaminated soil and replacing it with clean fill.
Justice John Templeman’s judgement in the WA Supreme Court this month indicated that, while a process of community consultation had been undertaken in relation to the site clean up, the Save South Beach group considered the process of community consultation to which it had been a party was not being followed.
This was “principally, it seems, because Stockland refused to release an Environmental Management Plan (the second of three) to the public”, Justice Templeman’s judgement says.
The Department of Health, Department of the Environment and the Western Australian Planning Commission approved the site for development in December 2004 without further consulting the Save South Beach group, which has sought the quashing of the approval on the basis that it was not able to make submissions.
Earlier this month a stay of proceedings was ordered, preventing Stockland from undertaking any site remediation, due to begin at the end of this month.
Justice Templeman said the matter was of considerable public importance and dismissed Stockland’s argument of the cost in delays.
“The applicant has, I think, raised a matter of considerable public importance. Although the application is made in the context of a planning decision, it essentially involves questions of public health,” the judgement says.
“This is not a case in which the applicant stands to gain some financial advantage from the proceedings.
“Furthermore, I cannot ignore the evidence that Stockland is a subsidiary of Stockland Corporation Ltd, a publicly listed company having assets of some $8 billion.
“Although I have accepted that Stockland would incur additional costs if its development proposals were delayed, it is not suggested that this would cause financial hardship.”
Stockland gave evidence to the effect that a month’s delay on the subdivision would cost $61,026, with a 12-month delay costing nearly $800,000.
According to the judgement, Stockland WA general manager Nick Perrignon said in an affidavit that he believed Save South Beach would be unable to pay Stockland’s costs if ordered to do so. The affidavit disclosed Mr Perrignon’s belief that the proceedings were vexatious on the basis that Stockland “has consulted and continues to consult widely with the public at large and the relevant government departments”.
Mr Perrignon was not available for further comment.
Justice Templeman rejected Stockland’s request for $24,000 security for costs, saying the object of that application was to stifle litigation.
With further evidence to be filed and further orders sought, a stay on work on the site was ordered and it is understood the parties will be receiving orders in the Supreme Court this Friday.