Angry locals from a small South Australian community earmarked to host the nation’s first nuclear waste dump fear the project is a foregone conclusion, despite Federal Government assurances to the contrary.
- Hawker locals fear Wallerberdina station nuclear dump proposal is “set in concrete”
- Landholders and traditional owners express anger at public meeting
- Local MP says many support the dump proposal
A fiery public meeting held in Hawker in the Flinders Ranges last night was the first chance for locals to express their concerns since nearby Wallerberdina station was announced as the Government’s preferred site.
The town has a population of about 300, and more than a third of that number packed into the local community hall.
Government representatives faced a barrage of questions from people opposing the dump, including traditional owners who fear important cultural sites will be put at risk, as well as other landholders.
“I think we’re getting the wool pulled over our eyes, big time,” neighbouring property owner John Gill said.
“I reckon it’s set in concrete now, and I could almost 90 per cent guarantee it’s going to go there.”
Local mayor Peter Slattery opened the meeting by telling those gathered it was “not a soapbox forum”, but emotions soon spilled over, with angry interjections from the floor.
“It’s a last link in the area where the footsteps of our ancestors were,” Adnyamathanha elder Tony Clarke said.
“They walked this land, they lived in this land, they hunted in this land and they died in this land.”
Adnyamathanha elder Enice Marsh held a sign protesting against nuclear waste as she addressed those gathered.
“The dreamtime that runs through [the area] is very strong. It’s alive and well,” she said.
“That story belongs to my people and me.”
Strong local support for nuclear dump, MP says
The Wallerberdina cattle station near Barndioota is co-owned by former Liberal Party president Grant Chapman and was last week singled out from a shortlist of six potential waste storage sites across the country.
“There is a lot of support in this community for this facility, which is why it’s gone through to the next round,” local federal Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey said.
“We know it’s not unanimous and the voices all need to be heard.”
Bruce Wilson from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science was last night asked what level of community support was needed to proceed.
He insisted community support was one of the conditions necessary for going ahead with the dump.
“There is no magic number,” he said.
“In making a decision to take it forward into this phase, the Minister accepted there was a broad support in this community.
“The community survey indicated 65 per cent. Now I would think the Minister needed at least that, if not more, for a final siting decision.”
The department will set up an office in Hawker and is recruiting locals for a community committee, and also plans to conduct an independent Aboriginal heritage survey.
The community will receive $2 million from the Federal Government as compensation, regardless of whether the facility is built.
Successive governments have, for years, been searching for a site to store low and intermediate level nuclear waste in Australia.
The final recommendations from South Australia’s separate Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle are set to be revealed next week, after interim findings proposed a dump.