The Port Hedland Voluntary Buy-back Scheme is picking up momentum with the first home-owners receiving offers for their properties last week. The scheme was established after a report from the Dust Management Taskforce found dust levels in the area could have a negative health impact on residents. Due to the report, zoning of the area was changed and the government announced an industry-led buy-back scheme which would allow homeowners to sell their property back to State. Residents have been offered market value for their property in August 2019, indexed according to the market and a 35 per cent premium on top. The Hedland Maritime Initiative, an organisation established to administer the scheme, set up shop in Hedland about two weeks ago. Managing director Karlene Bylund said about 35 per cent of the 439 eligible properties had reached out for a valuation. “Our participation levels are actually quite high and continuing to grow,” she said. “I can understand that the PHVBS won’t be for everybody but that is why it is voluntary. “Just yesterday we actually issued out our first round of offer letters and interest is strong with those people as well.” Ms Bylund said renters don’t need to worry about whether their landlord decides to engage with the scheme. “We will honour any existing bona fide leases plus any lease-back arrangements that are necessary to allow people to participate if they wish to,” she said. Commercial builder Gary Wightman, who owns 10 apartments and four commercial tenancies in the West End, said the uncertainty around the buy-back scheme was impacting investor confidence. He said the government hadn’t been transparent with landowners about how it decided on the 2019 valuation as a start point. “My property rights have been taken from me by the government, in solving industry problems,” Mr Wightman said. “They are going to have to compensate me for that. They are not going to be able to steal something or make up some mythical value.” Mr Wightman said he will wait to see what other property owners are offered before engaging with the scheme. “If they’re not at the point yet where reality is going to be met then there is no sense in being involved in the process,” he said. “The process has to be proven to be fair.” Port Hedland Industry Council chief executive officer Kirsty Danby said industry was doing all it could to mitigate the dust problem. She said zoning changes were essential to ensure the continued growth of the town and the Port. “The Port and the Town of Port Hedland were developed well before modern planning principles,” Ms Danby said. “The separation of industry and sensitive land uses through appropriate land-use planning controls is fundamental to ensure the ongoing operations and future growth of the Port.” A State Government spokesperson said the August 2019 financial valuation correlated with the first time it detailed how a buy-back scheme could operate. In response to two different questions about dust management in Hedland the spokesperson provided the same line. “The State Government is securing the future of Port Hedland by delivering transformational change on its waterfront and providing certainty about the future of the West End,” the spokesperson said. As of January 1 the Ports Authority began levying a charge on vessels exporting iron ore from Hedland to finance the PHVBS.