8 July 2020

Inner south rails against green light for Fyshwick recycling plant EIS

| Ian Bushnell
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Rubbish tip

Capital Recycling Solutions says its proposed Fyshwick plant will divert 300,000 tonnes of waste from landfill. Photo: File.

The ACT Government’s decision to give a Fyshwick recycling proponent the green light to lodge a development application has left community groups fuming.

They are calling on the government to allow more time to comment on the expected DA, take into account other recycling proposals in Fyshwick, establish an air quality monitoring station in the suburb, and ban such waste facilities from the area.

Late last Friday on the eve of the school holidays, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman announced by media release that the planning authority had finally accepted Capital Recycling Solutions’ environmental impact study for its planned Material Resource Facility on Ipswich Street next to the rail line, paving the way for a DA to be submitted.

The Inner South Canberra Community Council, which has a number of community associations under its umbrella, has blasted the timing of the announcement and the integrity of the independent review process, saying the future of Fyshwick is at stake.

The council says it is clear the government intended to release the news into the community at a time when the smallest number would notice it after two years of silence on the process.

It says the government accepted the EIS despite about 440 community objections on behalf of more than 1000 people and a review it had commissioned that raised serious doubts about the proposal.

Proposed site

Aerial view of the proposed site. Image: Supplied.

Objections focused on air quality, noise, odour and truck movements. CRS says the facility, which will divert 300,000 tonnes of rubbish from ACT landfill, will be sealed and insulated, and its traffic report found the impact on the area’s streets would be minimal.

The MRF would receive 15 trucks per hour, or a truck every four minutes, during its seven-day operation.

The council says the government needs to take into account the cumulative impacts of this proposal, already established recycling operations and other proposed operations in Fyshwick.

It says the environmental, health and safety impacts of the proposed CRS facility, the proposed Hi-Quality waste processing factory in Tennant Street, and the current metal recycling and proposed car fragmentising operation adjoining CRS are expected to be immense.

The government should change the ACT Territory Plan so that such major waste facilities are prohibited as a land-use option in Fyshwick, the council says.

“Has the Government sought the views of the 1000 businesses that operate in Fyshwick, the second-largest economy in Canberra, worth $2.3 billion a year?” asked council chair Marea Fatseas.

“Has it sought the views of the 13,400 people who work in Fyshwick, the third-largest workforce in Canberra, who will be subjected to the impacts of these new waste facilities?

“Has it asked the three childcare centres in Fyshwick and Symonston and the parents of the children who attend them?

“Has it asked the many thousands of Canberrans who visit the Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets and many other Fyshwick businesses each week?”

Ms Fatseas said the Government was not listening to the concerns of residents of Narrabundah, Fyshwick, Symonston, Griffith and Kingston, thousands of whom live less than two kilometres from the proposed waste hub sites.

There are concerns that Fyshwick will be dominated by waste and recycling operations. Image: Supplied.

She said the CRS proposal was a bad recycling deal for the ACT because the Arup review of the EIS found that of the 300,000 tonnes to be handled each year, only about 5 per cent would be reused locally, 15 per cent of recyclable materials would be exported, and the remaining 80 per cent waste would be railed to the Veolia Woodlawn landfill in NSW.

The expert review criticised the EIS for failing to consider if treating and transporting materials interstate and overseas would use more energy and generate more greenhouse gases than dealing with it in the ACT, Ms Fatseas said.

She said that it was more a waste processing plant than a recycling facility, and if the government proceeded with its plans for a separate food organics bin the amount of material available to feed the Fyshwick MRF would be reduced, raising the prospect of CRS having to import waste.

Together with the Hi-Quality plant, ”we’re going to have a conga line of trucks and trainloads coming from interstate”.

Ms Fatseas said the independent review was not a transparent process where the community should have had an opportunity to put its views to independent parties.

The Arup review also criticised the draft EIS for not addressing half of the 168 requirements and not assessing the full impacts of the proposal.

It also questioned whether there would be sufficient waste in the ACT to process in the future and if the facility could cope with delays in truck arrivals.

The draft EIS also did not address the presence of petrol underneath the site, which if disturbed, may affect the health of contractors and staff, particularly as the facility would be enclosed, preventing any vapours from escaping.

”Overall, there are a lot of questions that need confirming about the proposal,” the review says.

”It should be possible to build a materials recycling facility in Fyshwick, providing the necessary controls are put in place to minimise its impacts. Unfortunately, the current EIS does not contain the information needed to provide the comfort that all the impacts have been correctly identified and assessed.

”It is also unclear if the necessary controls have been described to build, run and close the facility without any unacceptable negative or lasting impact on the local area.”

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HiddenDragon6:33 pm 18 Aug 20

If(…..) the proposed variation goes ahead, the dwellings will doubtless all be occupied by workers from the recycling plant, so there won’t be any of those pesky, NIMBY-ite complaints that tend to happen in other parts of Canberra –


thoughtsonthesubject3:26 pm 13 Jul 20

Recycling facilities have to provide state of the art fire prevention equipment. Yet fires at these facilities belching out toxic smoke are frequent, all due to “unforeseen events.” Such as the one at Beard earlier this year and the 8 fires since 2014 at the scrap metal facility at nearby 15 Lithgow St. When 31 people in the ACT died on account of smoke pollution since January (while only 6 so far of Covid 19, thank heavens) and rising temperatures and increasing aridity are forecast, do we need additional fire hazards less than 1 km from 3 childcare centres, Narrabundah residences, the Fyshwick food markets, etc. This multi-million development is there to stay for decades, a fire hazard the next generation has to cope with. I doubt they will appreciate the Barr government’s lack of foresight.

Capital Retro7:52 pm 14 Jul 20

With the standing inversion layer over most of Canberra trapping smoke and other fugitive, toxic emissions, it doesn’t matter how close or how far the from 3 childcare centres, Narrabundah residences, the Fyshwick food markets, etc. are because they will all cop the fallout.

A recent report from a respected global institution confirmed climate change will make the pollution situation a lot worse in the future for places like Canberra.

The ACT government was warned 10 years ago of the consequences of waste disposal facilities creating a social disamenity for suburbs and activities within 5 kms. The government has ignored both reports.

If there was a comprehensive approach to waste management in the region, then this could make sense. It costs us a lot more to dump at Mugga Lane then it would do, even taking into account transport costs, to put it in the giant hole at Woodlawn. But Governments would need to work together to get the right outcomes for the region if we were to do things properly.

As for the whine from many that its somehow out of line with what Fyshwick was built for. Absolute bollocks – Fyshwick has always been industrial. The proposal is on the site of an old petrol terminal for goodness sake. That is not light industrial in anybody’s book.

No one has “whined” that Fyshwick wasn’t built for industrial purposes at the time it was built. The point here is that, over time, usages change in different areas. For instance Balmain in Sydney used to be an industrial area – it certainly isn’t now. As cities change and grow the areas within them change and grow also. The issue has been raised that Fyshwick is rapidly changing and putting in a large industrial processing unit probably isn’t the best use of the land here at this point in time and into the future.

Multiple people are absolutely whining about using it for the uses it was intended for.

Of course development changes areas over time – but where in the Territory do you expect industrial uses to be put otherwise? Hume has only limited capacity, and Fyshwick is an obvious location due to its proximity to the railway line to continue to maintain industrial usage.

Is it really ‘rapidly changing’ though? Looks much the same as it did a handful of years ago, just with some of the ‘light industrial’ uses in the area turning into more commercial in nature. If we lose Fyshwick as an industrial area, there won’t be much left.

Unlike Sydney which can expand forever in a day (even that is arguable now) and hence using land like Balmain for industrial use does not make sense. Fyshwick is never going to be a housing estate, and likewise it’ll never be purely commercial/shopping malls either. It continues to have a vast mixture of things as it always has, and should continue to do so.

If that’s the case, the government should drop the pretence that Industrial Mixed Use land is anything but disguised commercial land and fix up the zoning in the territory plan to match the reality of the way the area is being used.

This site is on the rail line in an industrial precinct. It should be perfectly placed for this type of activity.

If it isn’t, the government needs to work out whether we actually ever want to be able to diversify our economy away from solely relying on the federal public service and supporting service businesses.

And then they need to work out where you could ever put those industries because apparently where they were meant to go, isn’t it.

Going back to the original example of Balmain as an area that moved from industrial to commercial/residential this did not mean that Sydney no longer had any industrial areas. They moved as the city grew and expanded. i agree with you that a rezoning will be inevitable at some stage for Fyshwick as it is now moving towards more commercial use rather than industrial. The planned commercial and residential usage of Dairy Flat Road is an example. It doesn’t mean, however, that Canberra can no longer have any industrial areas, just that their location changes over time (as they did in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane etc.

When you say that Fyshwick “is never going to be a housing estate” you may not be aware of the Dairy Flat Road development – in Fyshwick. This will be both commercial and residential so the change to residential is already happening. Fyshwick is too close to the city and parliamentary triangle to remain industrial forever. You may also like to check on the history of the area of kingston which used to be industrial (foreshore) and became commercial/residential.

As above, where?

Hume is going to be right next to a housing development, so it’s out.

Majura Valley? Maybe, but the government has said it wants it to be more agricultural and commercial.

West is all housing and nowhere near major freight or transport hubs.

If Industrial land in Fyshwick can’t support this type of development, which is nowhere near as complex or risky as opponents are suggesting, then we are basically saying that the ACT can’t support any form of serious industry.

If you cannot think of any other suitable industrial area for the facility that is not a reason for placing it in Fyshwick. The ACT Government has already banned the Waste to Energy component of the proposal. They didn’t just say: “Well we couldn’t think of anywhere else for it to go so we’ll allow it in Fyshwick” .

Once again you are ignoring the point.

Fyshwick is already an industrial area, nothing needs to change from a planning perspective to allow this development.

You are suggesting that these types of areas change over time, so we should just stop these types of developments around Fyshwick.

It’s a strange type of reverse thinking, where you want to ban certain types of developments without actually changing the underlying land use because you think it could be good for some other type of use in the future.

So the obvious question is if this type of facility cannot exist on land zoned industrial then where does it go?

It’s up to you to nominate an alternative, otherwise as I’m pointing out above, you are basically banning any industry in Canberra by stealth.

Once again, the land is zoned industrial, it isn’t a case of Fyshwick being a choice of last resort, it’s literally where the ACT planning requirements say it should go.

If that isn’t the case, the ACT government is being extremely disingenuous and loose with their legislated planning responsibilities.

No one is disagreeing with the point that the land is currently zoned as industrial. However, this does not mean that Moses came down from the mountain with a stone table etched with the words “Fyshwick in the ACT shall always remain an industrial area” signed God. The point is that areas change, such as the example I provided of Balmain (and many other areas in Sydney and Melbourne are similar). Additionally, just because it is zoned industrial that does not mean that this particular industrial project should be located there.

Except your justification for it not going there is that areas change over time, so this facility shouldnt be built despite seemingly very well placed from a planning and current land use point of view.

That isn’t a reason. You’re saying that no one is arguing that the land isn’t zoned industrial but then in the next breath try to argue that an industrial facility is not be appropriate here.

The reasons given by others around traffic concerns or noise and odour are also specious, with a very strong scent (lol) of Nimbyism.

You can’t have it both ways.

Either this land is no longer capable of supporting industrial activities of this nature, in which case the ACT government should be evolving the zoning to match it or they are removing the capability for industrial activities to occur in the ACT by stealth.

I get that some uses aren’t compatible, which is why the ACT government needs to step up and be clearer so proponents don’t waste their time and money.

Yes, looks like we’re in furious agreement that a zoning change is needed around this area, recent stats supporting this as Fyshwick is Canberra’s second largest economy (after the City) and third largest employer. Oh and by the way, Nimbysm isn’t nearby residents not wanting to be exposed to carcinogens and other deleterious substances.

Capital Retro12:53 pm 15 Jul 20

The biggest industry still in Fyshwick is the adult/sex-services one. That’s why Fyshwick will always be Canberra’s only X-rated suburb.

It’s good that under the proposal no one would be exposed to dangerous levels of carcinogens or other deleterious substances then.

Either you haven’t read what the proposal actually is or you’re making my point about Nimbys

It’s literally step 1 in the Nimby playbook to claim something you don’t like is going to kill you or significantly harm your health when you want to get it stopped.

This is a rubbish processing plant. A bit of realism to the likely effects please. All of those concerns are addressed in the supporting documentation for the proposal.

No, it isn’t actually.

“…under the proposal no one would be exposed to dangerous levels of carcinogens…” …..”well thy would say that, wouldn’t they”. You should really check up how to use the word ‘literally’ as there is ‘literally’ no Nimby playbook that I’ve ever heard of – perhaps you could supply us with a with a publishing date and ISBN; otherwise the term is ‘figuratively’.

Capital Retro4:31 pm 15 Jul 20

Where do you go now?

So you haven’t read the EIS and supporting documentation then, thanks for confirming. It isn’t just “them” saying it, the proposal is backed up by professional studies, science and modelling.

And I’d suggest you look up the dictionary definition of “playbook”, the word also describes “any plan or set of strategies used”. It doesn’t have to be a physical book.

And whilst you’re at it, you should probably look up the dictionary definition of “literally” too because it’s broader than you think.

Nice try though.

It sounds as if you are confusing the proponent’s proposal with an independent report. Obviously the proponent will put a positive spin on their proposal, that goes without saying. However it appears from an independent report addressing the proposal that the EIS is markedly inadequate. And, no, there isn’t an actual ‘playbook’ for NIMBYs. Perhaps you might like to write one. Then you can refer to a ‘literal’ (i.e. actual) document. I wish you well in your endeavours.

The supporting documentation was written by independent professionals and, so it isn’t just “them” saying it as you claimed.

Obviously the proponents have a vested interest but so too do the opponents to the facility.

Which is why the government’s role is to gather information and assess.

Because of this, the government engaged ARUP to review the EIS, they did so and provided information outlining shortcomings in the initial EIS. The proponents have then responded to the concerns raised, outlining further information and mitigation measures for the risks identified.

The government has now accepted the revised EIS, based on all the information so your claims don’t match up to the objective assessments that have been made.

And yes, the meaning of words change over time and the dictionary responds to those changes.

Unlike it seems, land use planning in the ACT.

Or the set of plans and strategies used by Nimbys in their playbook.

Capital Retro11:10 am 12 Jul 20

Maria Fatseas says “Fyshwick would become the destination for a huge amount of NSW waste.”

You should be aware that the MLRMC is already a destination for all waste from most of the ACT’s towns and regional areas but does the government and most Canberrans care about that?

Whoa, this is a terrible idea. I guess the local Labor Greens govt doesn’t care much about the affected residents as they don’t have many seats in the area. But watch the Fyshwick shops disappear—I’d already noticed that there we’re more and more vacant. Nail in the coffin.

Capital Retro8:44 pm 11 Jul 20

Double handling makes no commercial sense but the ACT government is worried about that.

It is more likely that the waste we accept from interstate, even from Bombala, could be directed straight to the Fyshwick facility.

David Riddell6:50 pm 12 Jul 20

Unless interstate waste is banned from Mugga the waste could still be accepted even should CRS facility becomes operational. Question is why is the interstate waste coming to Mugga now and not going directly to Woodlawn and why would the CRS proposed facility change this dynamic.
Whether the conditions imposed on Woodlawn under its operating licence with the NSW EPA preclude this from happening are a factor. With low commodity prices CRS’s gate will need to cover the majority of its operating expenses. Assuming interstate waste is not banned from Mugga, CRS may need to compete for this waste stream through a competitive pricing strategy. The same could be said for attracting local waste. If so CRS’s gate fee would have to be quite a bit less the Mugga’s gate fee. I’m sure the CRS people have done their homework but it’s been interesting to read the varying points of view.

Capital Retro7:55 pm 14 Jul 20

Have you noticed the Liberal opposition asking the questions you have raised?

No? Neither have I. The Labor/Greens government can do what they like with impunity because the opposition is always missing in action.

Im just truly shocked that someone wants to do something industrial on industrial land in the ACT.

Didn’t they get the memo that we only do shops?

And that “industry” in the ACT means a coffee roaster or a brewery.

It has always been referred to in my memory, as ‘Light industrial land’, not ‘industrial land’. This proposal moves beyond ‘light’; the mechanics shop, the shop selling lights, Bunnings, etc.
The area is changing too.

you make my point for me.

Firstly, prior to 2008, all industrial land in the ACT was simply that, industrial land. There was no differentiation.

After the new territory plan was put in place in 2008, they had a new category of “industrial mixed use land”, which was still meant to promote industrial uses but also allowed more diverse development.

Due to those allowances, most of Fyshwick has now moved from it’s industrial purpose to almost wholly being commercial or extremely light industry.

Now those commercial businesses are whinging that someone wants to actually do something industrial on the land that was supposed to be for industry.

And no, this is nowhere near a heavy industry use, it’s very basic. The problem is, people in Canberra don’t actually know what industrial use actually is.

Chewy I agree with the basic point you make and in this case the biggest noise seems to be coming from the neighbour.

However do bear in mind that nothing is set in stone for ever. Towns and cities evolve and change. How land is use changes. When once we had Fyshwick and Mitchell we now have an expanding Hume, Beard etc that is taking over some of the heavier industrial uses that were once at Fyshwick.

Except you’ll have South Tralee right next to Hume shortly as well and although we’ve got a border, you can bet those residents will whinge if anything major gets proposed there too.

There’s almost no room for industry in the ACT and any chance of there ever being any is shrinking.

I have been in Canberra since way before 2008; 1974 in my case, and I always heard Fyshwick referred to as light industrial by the general population. So I didn’t make the point for you.

I’m sorry that what you’ve “heard”, is not quite equal to our legislated land use planning.

You can read up about it here:


Maya the land in question used to be a petrol terminal. I wouldn’t call that light industrial and that terminal had been there for a long time.

Ironically in some ways this new proposal is not too dissimilar except the cargo is going out rather than in.

HiddenDragon7:15 pm 09 Jul 20

It’s fair enough that we take more responsibility locally for functions like this, rather than shunting it off inter-state, but this particular location is already a serious traffic mess. The area near Newcastle Street/Ipswich Street and the Monaro Highway seems now to have an all-day peak hour.

There’s also the question of the broader direction for this part of town – this proposal would run quite counter to the gradual gentrification (for want of a better word) of that area. Cynics might say “so what”, but gentrification tends to mean higher property values – i.e. more rates and stamp duty revenue for a cash-strapped government.

Capital Retro6:54 pm 09 Jul 20

Any plan that diverts activity from the MLRMC is a good idea.

Twenty years ago the area where the MLRMC now is was going to be closed permanently but now it is the largest industrial complex between Sydney and Melbourne. Unfortunately, the only thing it “produces” are toxic gasses.

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