Pasminco’s administrator says it cannot afford to pay for future contamination monitoring on the former Boolaroo lead smelter site until it sells part of the land to IKEA.
Ferrier Hodgson has applied to remove a Department of Planning and Environment condition covering the future maintenance, funding and monitoring of a 45-metre-deep containment cell on the site.
The company’s application says it will earn an estimated $57.7 million in land sales at Boolaroo, including $22 million from IKEA and $11.5 million from Costco.
“It is unlikely that the sale of the IKEA site will occur until at least December 2019 and accordingly the funds from that sale will not be available to meet the financial obligations of condition 8.8 until that time,” the application says.
But Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper is confident the government will not allow the administrator to continue with land sales on the site if it seeks to “dilute its obligations” to set up a trust to monitor pollution.
“I am confident that the community and the government will hold that to be. We cannot surrender on that,” Mr Piper said.
“It was one of the underlying tenets when everyone agreed that that stuff could stay on site.”
It is understood Ferrier Hodgson and the DPE are at an impasse over how much it will cost to fund the monitoring trust.
Mr Piper described Ferrier Hodgson’s argument that it needed to sell property to free up funds for the monitoring as “probably a long bow”.
He said the company was “playing hardball” and needed to show more goodwill to a community which has dealt with the trauma of pollution from the smelter.
Boolaroo Action Group spokesman Jim Sullivan said the government needed to hold Ferrier Hodgson to its project approval conditions for subdividing and selling the land.
“We’ve got this containment cell full of thousands of tonnes of contaminated material that these guys … it was part of their original application to monitor,” he said.
“Five years later they’re saying they’re not going to do that any more, and they’ve lodged an application with the Department of Planning to walk away from it.”
The DPE confirmed the approval conditions included requirements for ongoing environmental management and monitoring.
“The department is working closely with all key stakeholders to ensure these requirements continue to be implemented in the long term,” it said in a statement.
A Lake Macquarie City Council spokesperson said the council was aware that discussions had been taking place between Ferrier Hodgson, the DPE and the Environment Protection Authority.
“While council has been consulted, it is not party to the decision,” the spokesperson said.
“The former Pasminco site is central to the development of North West Lake Macquarie as a catalyst area for regional growth, and council is keen to see the matter of cell management finalised so that planned residential and commercial development can move forward.”
Ferrier Hodgson’s application confirms Herald reports that Swedish furniture giant IKEA and American wholesale shopping juggernaut Costco are poised to open stores at Boolaroo.
Ferrier Hodgson, which has controlled the site since the Pasminco Cockle Creek Smelter company went into administration in 2001, has also applied to excise the toxic containment cell from the site’s subdivision so it can finance infrastructure works on the land.
The DPE is considering the application to create a separate lot number for the containment cell, which contains 1.9 million cubic metres of contaminated material from the smelter and a nearby fertiliser plant.
“No financial institution will accept security over any land owned by Pasminco Cockle Creek Smelter if it includes the containment cell,” the application says.
“Accordingly, the containment cell must be subdivided from the balance of the smelter land to create Lot 22 before any loan facility will be provided.”
The Herald reported in May that part of the former smelter site next to the contamination cell could soon be rezoned to allow light industry and commercial development.
Ferrier Hodgson declined to comment.