10 February 2021

Compensation payout looms as government bans new Fyshwick waste facilities

| Ian Bushnell
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Waste processing protest banner

A sign in Fyshwick protesting proposed waste processing facilities in Fyshwick. Photo: Region Media.

Inner South residents and Fyshwick businesses may be relieved, but the ACT Government is facing hefty compensation payouts after it introduced a bill into the Legislative Assembly banning new waste facilities in Fyshwick to stop two controversial projects going ahead.

The government has followed through on its election commitment to not allow the Capital Recycling Solutions proposal in Ipswich Street to go ahead and on its concerns about the bigger Hi-Quality Group proposal in Tennant Street.

All the main political parties made similar commitments during the campaign, and the bill is expected to pass this week.

Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman told the Assembly that the bill, which is aimed specifically at the CRS and Hi-Quality proposals, would ban the development of new waste facilities and the expansion of existing waste facilities in Fyshwick.

CRS proposed a materials recovery facility to process household waste, handling up to 300,000 tonnes of waste per year, while Hi-Quality Group wants to develop an integrated resource recovery facility, handling about 1.1 million tonnes a year of mostly building and industrial waste.

”If they had been able to proceed, the CRS and Hi-Quality developments would be game-changers for Fyshwick, and the government considers waste facilities of this size are not appropriate for Fyshwick,” Mr Gentleman told the Assembly.

“Given the scale of these proposals, there are various impacts to consider, including environmental impacts, impacts on amenity for surrounding businesses and their customers, the impacts on residents in nearby suburbs and traffic impacts from the proposed facilities,” Mr Gentleman said.

The government was also concerned about the potential for large-scale importation of waste from other jurisdictions for processing in the Territory, he said.

But the bill does allow the government to carve out sites, or classes of facilities, from the ban.

The bill also allows for reasonable compensation to be paid to the proponents if the land needs to be acquired, for the costs of preparing a DA and work already done on the land for use as a waste facility, and any loss of land or building value related to the acquisition. But the bill does not allow any claim for loss of opportunity or future profit.

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The Inner South Canberra Community Council and Fyshwick Business Association, which both campaigned fiercely against the new waste proposals, welcomed the bill. Still, CRS director Adam Perry slammed the retrospective nature of the legislation, which he said undermined the planning system and showed the ACT to be a risky place to do business.

He said it raised the question of compensation as CRS had spent more than $4 million submitting its development application last year.

The government has said it wants new waste facilities to be located in the industrial area of Hume, but Mr Perry said there was no guarantee the same situation would not occur there, with a nearby housing development or even other businesses possibly objecting.

”We could have exactly the same battle in Hume,” he said.

He said CRS would wait to see whether the legislation passed, then examine the detail and seek advice.

CRS plant

An artist impression of the CRS plant and rail terminal. Image: Capital Recycling Solutions

Mr Gentleman said the bill was not anti-business but would protect existing businesses and acknowledge the evolving nature of Fyshwick.

He said the government would continue to work with private waste companies, and work was underway that would provide certainty to small-to-medium waste operators about their future in Fyshwick, and identify the most suitable locations for new waste facilities.

Fyshwick Business Association President Rob Evans said Fyshwick business and property owners could now breathe a bit easier with the introduction of the bill, which he said would deliver much-needed certainty to the 1,000 organisations and 13,000 workers in Fyshwick.

“The decision to ban the development of new waste facilities and the expansion of existing waste facilities in Fyshwick recognises the overwhelming tide of opposition to large-scale waste facilities which had been proposed for Fyshwick,” he said.

“This threat has been hanging over us for years and this is a commonsense decision which explicitly acknowledges the evolution of Fyshwick as a light industrial, commercial and retail precinct.”

But Mr Evans said the bill was only one step towards appropriate recognition of the needs of Fyshwick as Canberra’s second-largest economic precinct, and the association looked forward to working with the government on planning and waste policy matters.

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Inner South Canberra Community Council chair Gary Kent said the organisation was delighted with the bill.

”We believe it will be really important in protecting the air quality and the other amenity of thousands of current and future residents nearby and the 13,000 people who work in Fyshwick,” he said.

Mr Kent said Fyshwick should continue to develop as a retail and light commercial precinct, especially with new residential areas proposed nearby, such as on Dairy Flat Road.

”We’d like to really engage with the government on where Fyshwick should be heading and would like it and the Fyshwick Business Association to work with us on matters such as traffic and other potential activities that will impact adversely on the suburb.”

The council remains concerned about Access Recycling’s approved fragmentiser metal recycling facility in Lithgow Street and is considering further action.


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HiddenDragon7:49 pm 12 Feb 21

“Given the scale of these proposals, there are various impacts to consider, including environmental impacts, impacts on amenity for surrounding businesses and their customers, the impacts on residents in nearby suburbs and traffic impacts from the proposed facilities,” Mr Gentleman said.”

All of which would have been apparent (as evidenced by vigorous debate on this site and elsewhere) long before the ACT Government made its announcement, just in time for the 2020 ACT election.

Even allowing for the remarkable ability of this government to be surprised by the bleeding obvious, the most generous interpretation is that they were sniffing the wind (in case majority sentiment should take an unexpected turn?), but the strong likelihood always was that they would come down on the side they did.

The discovery part of any court proceedings on this could be most interesting.

Accidentally bumped into a plastic works company out there. Had a chat on what he does and stated how do you compete with the Chinese?

He stated that they can manufacture almost instantly once he received the plans, which the Chinese would take anything up to and more than six weeks to tool up and six to eight weeks shipping.

Out of interest they advertised for an an apprentice at 70k start five years back. Never heard of apprentice on that type of money as a first year.

They manufacture card holders for businesses amongst other products and more than likely did most of the retail Covid screens Australia wide. Leave Fyhswick as it is. These are businesses that Canberra need, export tax paying and not a drain such as housing (in/out) and more readily which does not add value.

ACT resident5:28 pm 12 Feb 21

People love going to Fyshwick. This is a bill that protects existing businesses. Hopefully, the ACT is seen as risky for major waste proposals with cross border business shuffling waste from landfill to landfill. Labeling these facilities “recovery” or “recycling” is a misnomer which gets around the NSW proximity principle and waste can come by road from anywhere. The proposed combined tonnage was far greater than the ACT produces. We do recycling well and FOGO will further reduce our landfill waste without diverting to private interstate landfills costing us all more and costing the earth.

Protects existing businesses from what?
Other businesses using the land for the exact type of development the area is zoned for?

No, what it really does for existing businesses is gives them a massive windfall gain because they’ve just successfully lobbied the government to quasi chamge the areas land use outside of the legislated planning process.

As for you claims about better waste management somehow being bad for the environment, LOL.

Fancy trying to legislate against industrial use of an industrial area.. the government is opening the taxpayer up for massive legal costs, compensation payments and acquisition costs just to keep your typical small group of Canberra NIMBYs happy.

Capital Retro11:56 am 11 Feb 21

We all know that industries like this will end up at the MLRMC anyhow, just across the road from where the new body furnace is going.

The ACT government once again proving its absolute incompetence when it comes to planning issues.

Not only are they up for major compensation and potential further legal action but they’ve also completely degraded the likelihood of new businesses to want to set up in the ACT.

At least the Fyshwick and inner South landholders have been successful in lobbying themselves a quasi land use change outside of the legislated planning process. Can’t see any potential future problems with that whatsoever.

Conveniently they also will get large windfall gains in property value but I’m sure that’s just incidental……

Summed it up well chewy. A ridiculous outcome – just because some might judge it as the ‘right one’, the way it has been achieved is most definitely not the right way.

Yes if the government was doing their job, they would have signalled their intent for this area 10years+ ago and put in place the moves to formally begin changing the landuse. Even 5 years would have been just OK.

Instead they’ve been caught with their pants down (again) and made a knee-jerk action in response to political pressure from minority groups.

Yep that’s it. This gentrification by stealth of what Fyshwick ‘is’ and what Fyshwick is zoned to be is a very poor outcome – because the genuine conversations haven’t happened, and the formal moves not taken place.

There are reasonable arguments that can be mounted against the particular projects in question built – but less so on ‘what’ they were choosing to do and where they wanted to do it, and more due to ‘why’ was it being done.

This decision has explicitly changed the land use of Fyshwick on the whim of a relatively small part of the community, and I would suspect this will now mark the beginning of the end for anything remotely above very light industry for Fyshwick in the future. Firstly, why would anyone want to invest in the area in such types of facilities (despite its zoning), and the minority groups now have a benchmark on which to oppose almost any industrial style development, no matter how reasoned or reasonable it is.

And as you point out, no doubt those that get massive windfall gains out of this will still be the same ones that seek exemption from any charges (such as LVC) when they go to capitalise on the windfall gains in future.

Actually it’s the majority of Canberrans who have been gradually changing Fyshwick. Anyone who has gone there and shopped at anywhere which is not industrial has been part of the gradual change of Fyshwick. Visited a non-industrial shop that sells furniture, kitchen wear, home-wares, light fittings, bathroom fittings, etc you are part of the change. All non industrial. These shops are doing okay, so more similar shops open. Then cafes open because they see clientele working and visiting the area. Other shops such as clothes shops see these potential shopper and open too. The majority of Canberrans have changed Fyshwick.

Fyshwick has changed as many places change. As cities grow this happens. You can’t expect suburbs to always stay the same, especially inner suburbs, such as Fyshwick, because that’s how you always have thought of a place, and find the concept of change difficult. Think of dramatic places that changed, such as The Rocks in Sydney, or Paddington. Even bigger changes with docklands which have become residential and parks. Here closer to home (lower) Narrabundah. It was built as temporary accommodation for early Canberra workers. Biggest change was it became permanent, and then the demographics of who lived there slowly changed. All those places changed. Just as Fyshwick has been changing, because of the way a lot of Canberrans have been shopping and have become to regard Fyshwick.

The point Maya is not about the changing face of Fyshwick – that happens everywhere as you say. Its about the haphazard, blunt instrument that has now basically enshrined such changes, and complete avoidance of normal planning processes to achieve that outcome – that is the travesty in this case.

If zoning for Fyshwick is so out of whack with what people claim it is (I’m not entirely convinced), then it should be changed. But that shouldn’t be through slapstick legislation to ban certain operations – it should be through proper planning processes. This dreadful decision from Government in this regard creates precedence for every ‘unwanted’ use, irrespective of whether it fits with current zoning or not, to be thrown off the table at the whim of a few loud mouths.

Capital Retro3:07 pm 11 Feb 21

Fyshwick is still an “X” rated suburb after dark.

There is so much negative about placing this particular industry off Ipswich St in Fyshwick. The stream flowing nearby drains in the Jerrabomberra Wetlands for instance, which should have been enough to stop an industry like this, which has the potential to have accidents and endanger the wetlands. Even with care accidents can happen. Or seepage might go unnoticed until too late. To quote Wikipedia on the Jerrabomberra Wetlands, “It is listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia as a wetlands of national importance both for its function as habitat for vulnerable species and as a shelter during adverse climatic conditions such as drought.”

The recycling company should have been aware of that and other issues and NOT wanted to put their operations there, whatever the present planning rules are. But it seems they didn’t care enough about the issues and problems of placing it here to not place it here. So if they didn’t care enough, why should others care if they have had their uncaring plans ruined?

Better the planning regulations are changed late, than never. Or allowed to stand when the outcome is not in the interest of the environment and people.

I’m sure none of these were planned for either;


The problem has nothing to do with the individual proposal – the problem is with the process used to get to that outcome. I don’t get how you can not see that.

Its a slippery slope to just focus on the outcome if the way you get there is not good practice – there are many, many examples throughout history of that where very nasty things have happened during the process that have delivered what many would be considered ‘good outcomes’. Doesn’t mean the process to get there should be endorsed.

Planning regulations or zoning should not be changed through legislation being passed in an assembly to override decisions being made under lawful, established processes. That is using dictator like powers to say ‘no’. It is taking what is meant to be in most cases something decided by independent decision making in the public service, within defined laws and rules (i.e. independent of political intereference) to be something always at risk of someone ‘jumping in over the top’ on the back of some incessant whining. Yes I know there are various call in powers etc in some cases, but they are specified powers under legislation.

Just because you may see it as the ‘right decision’ doesn’t mean the process should be applauded. I look forward to the incessant whining on here at some stage in the future when a similar approach is used to deliver an outcome the community doesn’t want. It will happen, mark my words.

What you are saying is simply incorrect.

Fyshwick hasn’t changed because “Canberrans wanted it to”, it’s changed because the ACT government’s planning has failed.

Of course landholders will try to maximise the value of their land and Commercially zoned land in these types of areas is worth far more than Industrial land.

The area has changed because the ACT government has not had a handle on land use planning for quite some time. Their inability to provide a coherent direction has led to numerous problems across the city that are only now starting to bite.

Also Maya,
Your claims about potential water quality issues, habitat or “accidents” are just rehashed versions of the fact free arguments presented by the local NIMBYs in the area.

The proponents for these developments had studied all the issues and outlined robust controls to minimise the risks.

And if your worry is about the Jerrabomberra creek and wetlands, you do realise that Hume (the apparent preferred place for industry) drains into the exact same waterway right?

Just because you don’t accept change, doesn’t mean my comment is wrong. Fyshwick was built many years ago on the edge of Canberra. It’s now in the centre of the city. Also on some of the best prime land in Canberra, near the lake and river. How many cities have industrial areas on limited prime areas like this that will never be allowed to change? Like it or not, cities change and adapt. I’m not sure when Fyshwick was begun, but if in the 1960s, in 1960 Canberra had a population of 51,000. Today it’s 457,000. It’s a different city.
Okay, even if the ACT government has not, as you put it, “had a handle on land use planning for quite some time”, how does that change things? Once they wake up it’s better to correct mistakes than continue to make them.
A potentially polluting industry does not belong in the centre of a city. And an industry, that could have accidents.

Nimbys and other insults are cheap, empty words thrown around from people who disagree, meant to muddy genuine concerns and arguments. If the drainage system is a problem then maybe Hume isn’t the right place either. But that still does not alter the fact that Fyshwick is changing and at last the government has recognised this fact and acted on it.

Your pulling a long bow to suggest Fyshwick is in the centre of the city.

Nowhere near it, no matter what tenuous suggestion you want to make. Just because distance wise its not that far away from the City centre (which can be said about large chunks of Canberra), that doesn’t make it in the centre of the city.

There is no residential development in the ACT to the North or East of it, none in any close proximity to it in the South (though this will change at some point I expect) – its only on one side that residential development is anywhere really near it. It is still, in ACT terms, relatively isolated from the city (in comparison to examples in other large cities where industry sectors have been subsumed by the City).

You still are ignoring the key issue – the mistake here is using a sledgehammer to deliver an outcome that should be ‘par for the course’, if your assertions around impacts are correct. The fact its not par for the course, as chewy says as a result of a failing of coherent direction for land use planning. That doesn’t mean it should be fixed in the manner it has been.

As usual, your argument is emotive and ignores fact.
The facts are Fyshwick is still zoned as mixed use industrial.
Fyshwick is not even close to the “Centre of the city”. It is a good 20 minute drive from the CBD.
Furniture shops and cafes deciding to set up shop in an industrial zone does not change the zoning for the area.

Introducing legislation to circumvent the planning process is exceedingly poor form, and sets a terrible precedent.

When you make claims like you have with absolutely zero evidence, then I think the term applies.

Particularly when the claim is directly contradicted by actual evidence.

What are you talking about?

Where have I not “accepted the change”?

My comments are specifically about the lack of planning direction and problems that have come from the change which is occurring by stealth.

Strange that your position seems to be that we don’t need land use planning because businesses and residents should be able to decide what an area should look like.

“A potentially polluting industry does not belong in the centre of a city. And an industry, that could have accidents.”

Firstly, calling Fyshwick the centre of the city is blatantly false, you are bordering on the comical.

Secondly, you keep bringing up potential pollution or accidents as if they are large and probable risks, when they are not. It’s an anti science position that ignores the reams of investigations, evidence and controls that were to be put in place on land that is designated to accommodate that specific type of activity.

LOL “emotive” Don’t look in the mirror.

Take a look of the map. Canberra stretches a long way. Anything near the lake is central. If Fyshwick was in say Banks, then you would be correct. It is a short distance from the Kingston Foreshore development, and other housing for instance. Close enough to walk. More development is likely. It’s happening on Dairy Flat. Hopefully though with sensitive development there.

“Introducing legislation to circumvent the planning process is exceedingly poor form, and sets a terrible precedent.”

This was necessary with the future in mind. Argue it should have been done before and not at this late hour, that would be fair enough. But calm your emotions, it’s better done now than continue to ignore what was needed.

You are getting emotional again, and projecting. My post was completely factual.

If I could post a picture of the map, I could literally illustrate that you are making up nonsense. Fyshwick is literally on the edge of Canberra, and not the “centre of the city”. Kingston is not even the centre of the city. There’s a lake in the way.

And no, this was not “necessary” at all. It is a deliberate effort to use dictator like tactics to prevent a development that met all the requirements for the area it was proposed, and would have otherwise been approved. This was done because non-industrial businesses have decided to set up shop in an industrial area, and then whined that industrial activities were going to take place. The ACT Government deserve to have the pants sued off them over it.

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