Environmental assessment needed for Perth Stadium and Sports Precinct at Burswood Peninsula

This is what the Burswood Peninsula looks like now. It is a far cry from its former uses as a rubbish tip, sewerage treatment works and industrial site.  The site has been rehabilitated into a public golf course (that attracts 80,000 golfers annually), lakes, birds, trees and parkland. But not for long – the State Government has other plans.

The first cab off the rank will be the new Perth Stadium, scheduled to start in 2013 and be completed five years later.  More parkland will bite the dust as the stadium is followed by a Sports and Recreation Centre in the middle of the peninsula.  And finally, the coup de grace – a new casino complex and two luxury hotels, courtesy of James Packer.

The Perth Stadium proposal was referred to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) which determined that “the proposal is not likely to have a significant impact on the environment”. I disagreed with that determination and have lodged an appeal against it. There should be a full environmental assessment and public consultation on a project of this magnitude.

The main grounds of appeal are over contamination of the river, the suitability of the site, and impacts on birds, fish and plants.

Contamination of the Swan
The Swan River is a Perth icon. It does not belong to the government of the day; it belongs to the people of Western Australia.  Building the Perth Stadium on a registered contamination site is madness. Testing in 2008 disclosed a toxic mix including asbestos, industrial waste, cinder ash, bio solids and acid sulfate soil. The EPA has acknowledged the process of “surcharging” (infilling) and compacting the ground will increase the groundwater flow beneath the site, “towards the Swan River”, and that this has the potential to increase contaminated seepage into the river, and to cross-contaminate aquifers.

Driving 30 metre pylons into the ground to stabilise the foundations will further disturb the toxins and methane gas generated by the bio solids. This will increase the risk of contamination finding its way into the river and increase the emissions from the site. In addition, once complete, waste water from the new development will inevitably find its way into the Swan River as runoff or through the stormwater drains.

At the very least, extensive testing must be carried out so that we know what poisons we are dealing with. The environmental risks are significant, but even if they were small, why would you not exercise extreme caution when so much is at stake? The Swan is already under pressure from algal blooms and urban development along its banks; it needs our protection from known contamination.

Suitability of the site for major development
The site is on low-lying, swampy ground that has little resilience to change. It is susceptible to flooding and other impacts of climate change, such as foreshore erosion and subsidence and sedimentation.

Impacts on birds, fish and plants
The EPA Advice does not mention whether there are any matters of national environmental significance that may be affected by the proposal, such as national heritage places on the site, nationally threatened species and ecological communities  or migratory species, to which the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) may apply. An independent study should be carried out to identify whether there are any matters relating to the site or the proposal to which the EPBC Act applies prior to approval being granted.

I anticipate that the outcome of appeal will be determined by the Appeals convenor before the end of the year.  Please watch this space!