Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 20 September 1995) . . Page.. 1573 ..
The Government's first priority in contaminated site management is the protection of public health. We recognise that public health is not limited to physical health, and that, especially in residential areas, the potential for stress associated with the investigation and assessment of possible contamination can itself be a public health concern. The sensitivity required to manage this issue is not only a result of the public health and environmental implications. Affected residents have also expressed concerns about their property values and other issues of possible economic loss. In light of this, Mr Speaker, the Government has adopted a policy which it believes is fair and equitable in that it has offered compensation for any demonstrable, sustained long-term economic loss associated with proximity to the contamination, without the need for residents to enter into litigation. By providing the basis for a transparent process, and by stating our priorities clearly, the Government hopes that this strategy will be the first step in reassuring Canberrans that their health and the state of the Territory's environment are the Government's priorities in contaminated site management. This is particularly important to residents living near sites in urban areas.
Mr Speaker, residents living on affected blocks can expect the following: A detailed explanation of the process of assessment, the possibility of remediation, validation and certification, and the time each stage is likely to take; consultation over sampling points; information on the possible health impacts of the particular contaminant; to be fully informed of the results of any soil sampling; and compensation for any demonstrable long-term economic loss associated with proximity to a contaminated site. In the event that results indicate some contamination, residents can also expect the following: Government-funded consultations with a toxicologist and a clinical physician; government-funded health testing, usually urine testing; analysis of garden produce; analysis of house dust, and speciation of both dust and any surface soil samples with results significantly above the health investigation level; independent counselling, if desired, at government expense; and remediation at government expense. In the event that results indicate a contamination significantly higher than the relevant health investigation level, residents can also expect the offer of buy-out and/or temporary relocation prior to and during remediation. The Government will continue to work with affected residents and their local communities to devise and implement appropriate remediation plans for each affected residential site.
The testing program in all urban sheep dip sites is almost completed. The assessment of these sites is well advanced, and consultation with residents about remediation options has begun. Assuming remediation plans can be agreed to by all parties, remediation should begin in two suburbs before the end of 1995. We have given residents a commitment to the process of consultation, which will see plans developed in consultation with those who are most affected by the process. We are also working to avoid the possibility of contamination affecting future developments. Before a site is to be released for development or is being redeveloped, a comprehensive examination of the previous land uses is undertaken so that, if there is any potential for contamination, the site is assessed to ensure that the state of the land is consistent with its proposed use. A number of organisations were consulted in the strategy's development and I take this opportunity to thank them for their involvement.