Industry and community give views on dust recommendations

Taylar AmoniniNorth West Telegraph
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After more than seven years of waiting, Port Hedland residents and stakeholders have officially weighed in on the Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce report.

Submissions from a range of parties, including businesses, politicians and the general public were received by the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, in relation to the report, and this week 44 were made public on the department’s website.

The report, made public in August, followed a Health Department assessment last year which found dust levels in Port Hedland could have negative effects on health and outlined seven areas of recommendations as interim guidelines — air-quality monitoring, industry regulation, noise, land-use planning, local government, community and governance.

With recommendations for industry to continue the work already being done to reduce dust, noise and increase air quality, the report also recommended the Planning Minister — now legislative assembly member Rita Saffioti — and the Town of Port Hedland collaborate to implement a “special control area” for all land west of McGregor Street. The State Government will now review the submissions to form a response to the taskforce report on whether it will adopt the recommendations.

VideoIron ore carriers off Port Hedland, the world's biggest iron ore export facility.

BHP

As the leading global resources company, and major user of the Port Hedland port facility, BHP has been shipping iron ore out of the Port Hedland port since 1966.

The mining giant endorsed all recommendations put forward by the taskforce, with the only concern raised being about the slow progress of implementation appropriate planning controls.

In the submission, the company writes the adoption of the recommendations would develop the east end for residential use and allow for the revitalisation and development of South Hedland CBD.

“BHP believes that through this process the State Government can guarantee the strategic sustainable development of Port Hedland, including ensuring that the West End creates new local jobs and economic growth around the Port precinct,” it said.

“The negative financial and social impact to Port Hedland, the Pilbara, the State and the nation is too great if decisive and timely action is not taken.”

The miner also quoted a study commissioned by the Port Hedland Industries Council to emphasise the importance of iron ore exports from Port Hedland Port.

Fortescue Metals Group

Founded in 2003, Fortescue Metals Group produces 170 million tonnes of iron ore per annum and operated out of Finucane Island.

The iron ore exporter wrote about recommendations two and six, which it supported, and outlined its preferred alterations.

Recommendation two outlined the Port Hedland Industries Council to continue to operate and maintain its air quality network but FMG requested the PHIC air quality network be three monitors rather than the current two.

Recommendation six outlined for the Town of Port Hedland to work with key stakeholders to identify and mitigate dust from non-industry sources, and again while the mining giant supported the recommendation, high-lighting the significance of the Wedgefield Light Industrial Area as a dust source to also be considered.

VideoA shiploader pours iron ore into a vessel docked at Anderson Point in Port Hedland.

“Recommendation six which addresses non-industry related dust sources is non-prescriptive and is in direct contract to recommendation three which clearly outlines the role of the DER in enforcing ongoing reductions in industry-related dust,” the mining giant wrote.

Port Hedland Industries Council

The Port Hedland Industries Council, which is made up of BHP, Fortescue metals Group, Roy Hill Infrastructure, Pilbara Ports Authority, Atlas Iron and Minerals Resources, supported all recommendations put forward by the taskforce but requested further considerations for recommendations three, four and six.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA welcomed the release of the taskforce report and recommended the State Government taking the lead on land-use planning for Port Hedland, immediately implement the recommendation for a buffer zone, transfer full responsibility for the existing air quality monitoring network to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, and prioritise addressing critical issues, and for the taskforce to continue to produce annual public reports.

The chamber also recommended the continuation of the taskforce and for the Town to work with stakeholders to progress dust mitigation and control measures for non-industry dust sources.

Town of Port Hedland

In its submission, the Town of Port Hedland produced a timeline of events the local government had been a part of since 2009 in regards to dust management in Hedland.

The town also attached a self-funded report of data relating to Air Quality in Australia which agreed with conclusions and recommendations provided in the Health Risk Assessment report.

“It is clear that nearly a decade has gone past since the taskforce first came together, and today, despite having actively participated in numerous State Government initiatives on the subject, having communicated repeatedly its views on the matter, and been very proactive in attempting to find solutions for its community, the town still finds itself unclear in relation to the strategic development direction of the Town in particular to the West End and the port,” the Town wrote.

“For this reason the Town of Port Hedland request the current State Government of Western Australia to urgently work towards achieving a permanent solution to address the dust issues of Port Hedland and the strategic growth and development of the town.”

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA endorsed and supported all the recommendations of the report, and only encouraged due consideration be made to the local environment and use context.

Urban Development Institute of Australia

The Urban Development Institute of Australia wrote it was “extremely concerned” by the process for establishing the recommendations set out in the report and requested the State Government to give consideration to previous studies.

Highlights of concerns for the UDIA included the fact that the Department of Health’s Health Risk Assessment itself acknowledged the insufficient evidence linking the dust in Port Hedland with negative health impacts.

Jacqui Boydell, Member for Mining and Pastoral Region

Jacqui Boydell, the Nationals Member for WA’s Mining and Pastoral Region, was the only submission made by a politician that was published on the JTSI website.

My Boydell highlighted five key areas of concern in the report including excessive restrictions, health concerns for employees, a lack of community trust in industry, port expansion and tourism.

Care For Hedland Environmental Association

The independent Care for Hedland Environmental Association wrote it believed that State Government and industry needed to work better with the Port Hedland community and disagreed with a number of points within the report recommendations including an increase to port users’ dust particle limit.

The association also noted that the Health Risk Assessment, the taskforce used in its recommendations, used empirical data up until 2013 and felt any recommendations made using those findings were redundant without consideration.

The Esplanade Hotel

The Esplanade Hotel adjacent to the port made five separate submissions prepared by various consultants arguing for a change in government approach to protect the interests of land and business in the West End of Port Hedland.

A theme throughout the submissions, was the recommendations placed an onus on the community.

On behalf of the hotel, Aurora Environmental put forward alternate recommendations including providing compensation for affected landowners and businesses, requiring port users to adopt best practice dust control practices, implementing a more appropriate monitoring system, putting in place an administrative structure for dust monitoring and management, and a conditions upgrade.

The Port Hedland community

Various members of the Port Hedland community wrote submissions, with more than 20 published on the JTSI website.

There was an overwhelming dislike for the recommendations, and support for the port users — specifically BHP.

VideoDaniel Emery, a local resident, drove up to the giant dust storm in Port Hedland and was met with a wall of Biblical proportions

One of the prevailing themes of concerns was the recommended “special control area” buffer zone.

“We are also concerned that is the West End area is forced into a special control area, this will destroy the towns Heritage and character,” A Wood and T Hebbard wrote.

One submission, with the name withheld, questioned the validity of the taskforce and its report findings due to the members within the group.

“The taskforce should be dissolved and an independent body take responsibility with no industry representation (The Port Hedland Industries Council) that has extreme influence of political and monetary resources as was witnessed in the last state election,” they wrote.

“I cannot believe that the taskforce would be so insensitive to state that acceptable risk is based on population size and it’s okay to contaminate a few but not a lot to please industry.” The public submissions also outlined a distrust for the taskforce and industry, with many “just wanting the dust gone” without losing their West End values.

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