A public meeting tonight on the State Government’s proposal to send radioactive waste from Hunters Hill to Kemps Creek started out with the best intentions of encouraging a democratic discussion but evolved into chaos as residents, action groups and political parties fought to have their say on the controversial issue.
Representatives from the State Property Authority, who currently owns the Hunters Hill site, SITA waste management facility, the Department of planning and MP for Mulgoa, Tanya Davies, spoke to an audience of over 60 locals with a view to making half an hour of presentations before opening the floor to questions from the audience.
First to speak was Simon Furness of the State Property Authority, who explained that the site at Hunters Hill must be remediated because as the owners of the site they are legally obligated.
But when Mr Furness tried to explain that although there are radioactive elements in the soil, it is “not radioactive” the audience became increasingly agitated.”You are confusing us, you say it is not radioactive yet it is contaminated,” questioned one resident.
Mr Furness ended his presentation abruptly after members of the audience continued to argue about the definition of “radioactive”.
Robert Blackley of ANSTO, the regulator who will monitor the waste at Hunters Hill, then only spoke for two minutes before he too was forced to sit down because the audience kept interrupting.
Questions were then taken by the panel of experts.
A university student asked Mr Blackley what the exact radiation levels of the contaminated site were but he admitted he could not answer the question.
Ms Davies was continually targeted throughout the night, and was asked by Isabella of St Clair: “why the backflip Tanya? How can you stand there and expect the people of western Sydney to believe you?”
Ms Davies flatly denied the accusation.
“There is no backflip,” she said.
A second question fired from the audience asked Ms Davies whether she would admit to hearing evidence in a parliamentary inquiry that the contained soil is linked to a cancer cluster in Hunters Hill at the site of the contaminated soil.
Ms Davies said she could not deny that she knew that evidence as it is on public record.
When Penrith Councillor, Prue Car spoke, her accusation that the Government has betrayed the people of western Sydney was met with fevored applause.
Similarly, Cr John Thain had the room’s support when he asked: “why do you want to send this cocktail of death out to us?”
But the meeting quickly descended into chaos as the audience refused to listen to expert advice from independent radiation expert, Mark Zonter.
Ms Davies closing remarks were drowned out by calls for residents to sign a petition against the waste and a sea of hands fought for the microphone to ask further questions.
Some residents left the meeting, angered and disappointed that the discussion could not be conducted in a civil matter.
Further public consultation will take place before the proposal is submitted to the Department of Planning for approval after February 8, 2013.