Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1758 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
legislation changes, or the spirit of it, and have said, "Certainly you can have this site - for double its value". What we do not have is a mechanism in place to make them be reasonable in the negotiations. I pass on those points to the Minister because I know he would want to pick them up.
What the motion seeks to do is to put before you the next step - once we have, in fact, arrived at the stage where a site is no longer viable, it has no takers and it is up for land use change. When you think about it and have a look around town, you find a whole stack of dead petrol stations with chain wire around them and broken concrete. If you are not lucky, like the guy at Torrens, you will find a little bit of petroleum leaking up out of the soil. What this motion seeks to do is to sheet back the responsibility for restoration of that piece of ground to its original condition.
What we are talking about here is environmental responsibility, and I will address it in a couple of ways. The first is contamination. When it is determined that a petrol station is no longer viable and nobody else wants it, in nine out of 10 times the tanks are still in the ground. They are filled with a fluid which actually keeps them in the ground because when you empty them they rise up out of it. However, if they sit there long enough, the seal is eaten away and the residual petroleum product in those tanks leaks into the soil. Also, an enormous amount of fuel oil products are left lying about from vehicles going in and out of the workshop and in and out of the bowsers.
It is not unreasonable to suggest that those sites are seriously contaminated. What happens now is that people just walk away. The franchisee at Torrens was told to get lost, which he did. They put in a manager, who ran it down, and the company said, "We do not want it". They boarded it up and walked away. Under the current legislation we can resume the land and change the land use. If we feel like it, we can offer it for sale. It could be used for residential or commercial development - shops or whatever. But we would be building structures on contaminated land.
What this motion seeks to do is to get the Government to introduce imperatives, either through changes to the land use legislation or any other measure they feel is binding upon these people, to get them to accept their responsibility. There is also the visual pollution, if you like. They look dreadful. How many times have we driven around and thought, "My God, look at that". The petrol station at Page is another one. The one at Torrens is an absolute disgrace and it has been a disgrace for well over 12 months.
What I seek to do by this motion, Mr Speaker, is to have the responsibility for restoration put down to the owners so that, as part of accepting the lease, they accept responsibility for putting the site back the way it was at the beginning. If that means digging up the soil and carting it away, so be it. If that means going to an enormous expense to get rid of the buildings and the concrete, so be it. We need to require that all future leases include provision for restoration.
Mr Speaker, I believe that we should be requiring people to prepare environment restoration plans and to submit them to a competent authority for approval. I recommend very seriously that there be a financial penalty imposed on those who are in default. Not only will we resume the land when they walk off it, restoring it to its original condition at public expense, but also we will recover that public expense from them and