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.
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.
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.
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.