August 1st 2011
Waste Transfer Station: Let's think together
The call is out for Magnetic Islanders and people with an interest and concern for the way in which our waste, our community and our environmental needs are managed, to look, discuss and think hard over the thorny future location of the Magnetic Island Waste Transfer station and the green waste dump.
The call was the take-home message from a meeting of about 100 Islanders yesterday at the golf club, conducted by Queensland Corporate Communication Network’s (QCCN) David Donohue, who has been conducting a community consultation process on these issues on behalf of Townsville City Council.
There is much to learn about the options and how the present sites have been assessed by the council’s consultants and this material is accessible via a banner link (HERE)
David Donahue commented that while the Townsville Bulletin was describing the meeting as a “battle” and the “last chance” to influence Council, “If you’re looking for a battle, I’m not prepared for it. It’s not the last chance but the start of a process.”
David Donahue with Stephanie Carter
who made notes of the proceedings
The details of the project, explained by Townsville City Council Utility Services’, Gary Ewert, provided a very useful insight. A waste transfer station is entirely different to a landfill and the waste transfer station planned for Magnetic would be built to the highest environmental standards and be much more sophisticated than the present, four, mainland facilities which were “simple” bin loading facilities.
TCC's Utilities Services Executive Manager, Gary Ewert
Apart form being an entirely enclosed within a $1M building, the transfer station would include three main 40m cubed containers and a built-in odour suppression system. Instead of them simply being filled with our rubbish, the waste would be spread over a wide, flat, concrete, “surge” area in which items could be sorted and removed for recycling or other waste streams before being compressed into the completely sealable container for shipping back to the mainland. The plan is to enable a possible “salvage shop and metal recovery area” as well as storage for car bodies to run alongside. “We want to be able to pull off anything recoverable or salvageable” said Mr Ewert. These efforts were not just for good environmental practice but to minimise, wherever possible, the amount of waste to be transferred on the barge; expected to cost $900,000 per annum with 16 truck movements to or from the transfer station per week.
Noting also that the building would be set within a landscaped site, “It will be built, contained, managed and designed to be clean attractive and safe” said Mr Ewert.
The discussion then moved on to what seems to be the most difficult issue: the future siting of the green waste dump. The current plan would see it move from its present location off the end of Hurst Street to be placed on top of the current dump which would be “progressively capped”. Picnic Bay locals are however irritated by the noise of the regular chipping machine operations - not least of which has been exacerbated by Cyclone Yasi’s massive extra load this year - and one questioner asked if there had been any sound tests conducted for this. There had not. But with much to recommend the plan for transfer station, the importance of the green waste noise issue alone may be the key to resolving much of the problem.
The relative merits and disadvantages of each site: Nelly Bay, Picnic Bay or Cockle were revisited (see story) and, as has been reported, the Picnic Bay site was found by the consultants to have the most merit. This was clearly not the view of perhaps 90 percent of those who attended with many fired-up Picnic Bay locals eager to say, as one did, “We just don’t want it here!”
The comments and contributions of the meeting, are, we understand, to be displayed tomorrow on the consultant’s website set up for the consultation.
But while the meeting showed a very strong support for moving the waste transfer station and green waste to the council-owned bushland block near Cockle Bay, the meeting only represented about 4.5% of the Island’s population. And, as human nature always seems to be far more motivated by discontent rather than its opposite, the meeting’s, informal, hands-up vote was hardly surprising.
A magpie goose and resident of one site
where the transfer station is proposed
These sentiments, while quite understandable, overlook the major environmental costs and near impossible state and federal environmental approvals which would be required if Council were to seriously take up the Cockle option. With a considerable list of animals and plants listed in a range from vulnerable to rare or threatened, approval by the state Environment Protection Agency would likely be up to two uncertain years in the making and that’s before the Commonwealth’s role to protect World Heritage habitats under the Environment Biodiversity Conservation Protection Act (EPBC) would be tested. Such matters will surely require very extensive flora and fauna surveying of the site which also sits right beside an important semi-permanent wetland and home to many species of birds including magpie geese, heron, loads of ducks and visiting jabarus to name just some. The mangrove-lined wetland is also an important fish nursery. Somehow it just doesn’t seem sensible for a Council with an urgent task to wait it out and run the high risk of the Cockle block failing on State or federal environmental approvals
One contributor queried that if the waste transfer station was built to the highest environmental standards surly then it would have little impact on the environmental at Cockle Bay. But, while the plant may well be designed to very high environmental standards, it’s footprint will require the destruction of ever diminishing lowland habitat.
Cr Trevor Roberts believes it would be better to locate a whole range of light industrial operations together in the area, and once the road infrastructure is built for the transfer station the expensive access standards would be in place. Industrialisation would be inevitable - making the whole block, which forms almost all of the natural linkage to the bushland on Nobby Head, eventually succumb to the bulldozer.
Cr Trevor Roberts
Cr Roberts told the meeting that he had listened to lots of people over here and wanted to take care of the environment. “But the environment that people live in and how it affects people needs to be considered. I appreciate where you’re coming from,” he said to the heavily pro Cockle Bay-option audience.
But if Islanders are to be realistic about the options it seems imperative that we look for a smarter approach than the simple but flawed solution at Cockle Bay.
Such a sentiment was raised by some attending; that Magnetic Island has a world leading waste water infrastructure and that perhaps we can find a world leading path in waste transferring and green waste processing too. Calls for a wider investigation of high tech approaches were mooted as was an approach which may see a separation of the transfer station and the green waste sites.
The conclusion by David Donahue calling for the intelligence, local knowledge and ideas of this community to be harnessed to find the right solution during this period of public consultation, which lasts through until August 30, was timely.
To help, Magnetic Times invites readers to both use our comments section below to further this important discussion and or use this link to the online feedback form (HERE) and again, for a listing of the public briefing outcomes (HERE)
Story and photos: George Hirst
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