Legacy contamination sites - Boolaroo

6th May 2021

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (15:09): My question is directed to the Minister for Energy and Environment.

The SPEAKER: Order! Members will remain silent during the question.

Mr GREG PIPER: Notwithstanding the adoption of certain recommendations contained in a report by Professor Mark Taylor in 2017, what is the Government doing to ensure that legacy contamination, including coal ash and heavy metals from sites such as the former Pasminco lead and zinc smelter in Boolaroo in Lake Macquarie, do not burden communities and the environment into the future?

Mr MATT KEAN (HornsbyMinister for Energy and Environment) (15:10): It is great to be brought back off the bench. It has been great to come out of witness protection. It is good to get a question from the member for Lake Macquarie. And isn't it good to see what an effective Opposition looks like? We should be sending a very important message to those people voting in the Upper Hunter by-election of what Labor looks like under the leadership of Jodie Mackay: Not only will they not work for you, they will walk out on you. Under Jodie Mackay Labor will not work for you; Labor will walk out on you. That is what we have seen here today. That is the message.

But it is great to see a member of this Parliament sitting on the Opposition benches who is actually interested in policy; interested in policy and interested in standing up for his community. That is what the member for Lake Macquarie does. His community was adversely affected by Pasminco, which ran a smelter in that community for a long time. Unfortunately there was lead contamination left on the site and the community had to deal with that mess. But worse than that, Pasminco went broke and Pasminco left the community to foot the bill. This Government supports industry and we investment in this State. We want to see industries creating jobs in all sectors of the economy. But the general principle that we believe in, is that where those industries have degraded the environment, they should foot the bill for it and not leave the rest of us to pay for it. That is the principle that this Government believes in.

When it comes to Pasminco, the site up in north Lake Macquarie, the Government undertook a full study by the professor to look at what we can do to ensure that we protect the community and keep them safe, but also ensure that we manage the financial liability for everyone. So we are adopting all 22 recommendations in that report. In fact, we have already taken action to implement 21 of the 22 recommendations, and the remaining recommendation will be implemented by December 2021. This Government will always prioritise public health. This Government will always seek to protect the environment, and where industry impacts on the environment it should foot the bill for it. That is what we believe in.

So whether it be the site up at Lake Macquarie, whether it be asbestos that has been left around the community, whether it be the PFAS that has contaminated communities around Williamtown—I know the member for Port Stephens is very passionate about that—we will pursue those polluters to the ends of the earth. That is why we have a tough environmental cop on the beat, the Environmental Protection Authority [EPA]. The EPA in New South Wales is there to enforce the laws, to hold dodgy polluters accountable and to protect the community from harm. That is what it is doing. And who was at it who set up the EPA? Not those who claim to be the guardians of the environment in the green movement and not those from the Labor Party. It was a Coalition Government, a Coalition Government right here in New South Wales led by a Coalition environment Minister, Tim Moore, who set up the EPA to keep communities around New South Wales safe. That is why it is a Coalition Government that will always stand up for communities, always stand up for the environment and ensure that we look to the future and protect people from harmful industry. We want industry to thrive in New South Wales. We want to create jobs. We want to drive investment. We want to grow our economy. But we will do it in a way that leaves our planet to our kids, better than we found it. That is what we in the Liberal and National parties have always been about.

I say to the member for Lake Macquarie that we will continue to work through those issues in North Lake Macquarie. We are working with Lake Macquarie City Council and the Environment Protection Authority to develop a standard approach to remediation of lead-impacted properties, to save residents of the need to get specialist consultants when redeveloping their land. The New South Wales Government's response will save tens of thousands of dollars in remediation costs for each property owner impacted by the historical contamination. I will work with the member for Lake Macquarie on these issues. I have been up to visit the Pasminco site. The Government is taking responsibility for it and will ensure that we continue to protect the community from dangerous lead on the site. But there are other sites of contaminated land across New South Wales. We have recently seen this Government step to the plate to protect the community in Hunters Hill. We will dispose appropriately of the contamination of that land at Hunters Hill, take it out of the community and ensure that the property values in those areas are able to remain high.

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