A Parliamentary Inquiry into the Health Impacts of Air Pollution has recommended the Andrews Government conduct an independent Environmental Effects Statement (EES) into Chunxing Corporations Used Lead Acid Battery (ULAB) secondary smelter proposed for Latrobe Valley.
The Andrews Government allowed Chunxing Corporation to self-assess its environmental impacts, despite the ULAB project attracting significant opposition from the community and the Latrobe City Council which denied a planning permit for the factory.
However, in a move that left Hazelwood North residents devastated and angry, Labor’s Planning Minister, Richard Wynne abandoned due process by overturning Latrobe City Council’s decision and ‘calling in’ the project, granting a planning permit to the Chinese based company.
The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath actively supported Hazelwood North residents fighting for greater transparency in state parliament and sponsored a parliamentary petition attracting 3,000 signatures.
A member of the of Environment and Planning Committee, Ms Bath said the Andrews Government must accept the Inquiry recommendation and immediately commit to an independent EES on Chunxing Corporations’ Used Lead Acid Battery facility.
“I was pleased to have invited Latrobe Valley based advocacy group, ALiVe Inc. to speak at the Inquiry and that the Committee adopted their position, necessitating an EES for the project.
“The Andrews Governments refusal to conduct an EES on Chunxing Corporations Hazelwood North ULAB project in Latrobe Valley is unacceptable.
Hazelwood North residents took their fight to the steps of parliament house, but the Andrews Labor Government doubled down to again deny the EES.
Minister Wynne dismissed locals, justifying his position stating the proponent’s self-assessment concluded, “No residences will be displaced or impacted by the proposal””
“If built, Chunxing Corporation ULAB project will be located less than two kilometres from local homes, the primary school and a playgroup in Hazelwood North – locals are highly concerned that a thorough analysis has not been done on the environmental and social impacts of a secondary lead smelter in their backyards,” said Ms Bath.
“Given the proximity of the industrial development to residents, Labor should have considered the Hazelwood North community the most important stakeholder in the ULAB project, but they were shockingly ignored.
“Locals remain legitimately concerned about the environmental and health reporting of Chunxing Corporation.
“The single biggest issue for residents is the potential for lead toxicity and Chunxing Corporation’s self-assessment did nothing to alleviate community concern.
“The Inquiry report confirms the Andrews Government is happy to run roughshod on regional communities to suit its agenda.
Ms Bath said she was pleased to have worked with various members of Hazelwood North community for over two years on this issue, and residents are vindicated that the Inquiry found in their favour but are keenly waiting to see if Labor will accept the recommendation.
“The Andrews Government must immediately act to address community’s concern and refer Chunxing Corporation ULAB project for an independent EES,”, said Ms Bath.