I'M not sure why it's been so easy for successive governments and politicians in power to miss the real point about pollution surrounding the former Pasminco smelter at Boolaroo.
It's a decades old problem, certainly, but that's the least of the issues for anyone seriously interested in solving it.
The central problem is that there has been no political will to address the contamination, that spreads across 3000 Lake Macquarie homes, and that's about as honest as it gets.
Residents spent decades, until 2003 when Pasminco closed, drenched in lead emissions from the smelter stacks that threatened their health.
After the smelter closed, the battle shifted from stopping emissions to getting their contaminated land cleaned up.
You would think the fundamental injustice of residents being left with bills of up to $100,000 to clean up the mess left behind by heavy industry would be enough to move the stoniest of political hearts.
How could any reasonable person suggest, in a state that prides itself on a polluter-pays policy, that it's fair for homeowners to sink further into mortgage debt to fund the removal of lead from their yards?
You would wonder how anyone with even a vague sense of fairness could propose that the same residents - who campaigned to stop the pollution at the same time as the state government approved increases in smelter production - be left with the clean-up bill.
Is this really us? What happened to the idea of a fair go?
The view from successive NSW government ministers' offices is that plenty has been done already to assist the residents.
Just as Property Minister Melinda Pavey did this week, they cling limply to the success of a state-sanctioned clean up known as the Lead Abatement Strategy.
It was such a big of a success, that the program was described in 2017 by leading Australian lead expert Professor Mark Taylor, of Macquarie University, as "wholly inadequate".
In fact it was that unfortunate, even the lead expert whose reputation was used to endorse the strategy, Graeme Waller, has publicly questioned its effectiveness.
And yet, from their offices in Parliament House the politicians continue to wonder, `What are these residents whingeing about?'
On a generous impulse, the state government set aside $1.8 million in 2018 to be rolled out over four years to tackle the legacy pollution problem.
No, dammit, we went the whole hog, the politicians tell themselves.
"Poor buggers left with Pasminco's lead, it's the least we could do to help them."
It was heartening to learn that only $400,000 of the grant is actually available to residents, priority of course given to those with lead-related health problems.
On my last count, that left the 3000 affected property owners with access to $133 each over four years, or $33 each per year for four years. A true bonanza.
The politicians posture, "We've also provided them with a place to take the soil and blow me down, they are not happy about that either.
"All they do is complain about the cost, almost $290 a tonne, not our fault if they have to remortgage their homes."
Still the powers that be rail angrily against any suggestion that there is a problem.
They are agog when the malcontents point out they don't like the conditions imposed on dumping the dirt they didn't pollute.
The idea of loading tonnes of contaminated material into bags that contain no more than 500kg of soil makes perfect sense to anyone who doesn't have to do it.
Anyway, it comes to pass this week that the government is going to step in and spend millions acquiring the old smelter site to allow for economic growth.
Their irrepressible urge to big-note is given a run. The "once-in-a-generation" development opportunity is lauded by all sides of politics.
You know what all this means, don't you? Maybe the ingrate residents might take the hint and finally shut up about being burdened with the clean-up cost.
They've been given plenty of tools to help them shoulder the burden and now they're going to get IKEA and Costco.
Who knows, they might even get a bump in their house prices over the next decade or so to make up for the extra $100,000 they've been forced to spend.
People need to remember that our elected officials have done everything they can.
The pollution that spreads across Boolaroo, Speers Point and Argenton is another winning example in a government sea of success on contamination issues.
Just don't mention that other place 35 kilometres up the road.
You know the one, where the polluter isn't an international company trying to do business on the cheap like in Boolaroo, but our very own federal government.
There are a few new jaw-dropping twists, but Williamtown is certainly a familiar plot.
We should learn something from these great experiences.
Next time politicians should just be upfront about the situation facing residents.
"Sorry cobber, we know it's not your fault and you had nothing to do with making the mess. But we're not going to help you, you're stuck with it. We just ask that you cut out the whingeing and get on with our job."
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