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Follow the link to download Acid Sulfate Soils Planning Guidelines from Planning WAGuidelines
ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION Print E-mail
Article posted on 06/12/009 - Updated on 21/12/009
Government acknowledges in their planning guidelines that there are very real dangers of toxic contamination of the environment by digging up acid sulphate soils for urban or industrial development. Government seems to want to go against their own planning guidelines (which advises to avoid disturbing these soils) and thereby trigger the dangers of contaminating bores, the water supply and the environment. Page 15 of the East Wanneroo Structure Plan states:

“It is crucial that acid sulphate soils are adequately managed in East Wanneroo, as disturbance of these soils presents a major hazard to the Gnangara Mound, and consequently to Perth’s drinking water supply, irrigation of nearby food production areas, wetland ecological values, and infrastructure associated with urban areas.”

Planning urban zoning and major roads in the present Mariginiup rural areas will mean that the acid sulphate soils will be deeply disturbed in what is already a naturally chemically unstable area which is showing trigger values that could lead it to being classed a contaminated site under the “Contaminated Sites Act 2003”. Scientific evidence shows the danger of contamination of bores and the effects of toxic air borne particles from disturbing lakes, wetlands and old swamp sites is severe in the Mariginiup area.

On page 14 of the East Wanneroo Structure Plan under the heading “Acid Sulphate Soils” some of the dangers are addressed. However on page 34 under the Implementation map there is an acid sulphate area marked by red stripped lines and labeled wetlands consideration area.

Surely this wetland area should be considered, assessed and classified prior to zoning.

At a meeting with Dianne Guise (when she was the sitting state member for Wanneroo) and local and state government departments, residents were told there were not enough funds or resources to either properly assess or monitor the acid sulphate soils.


In the Acid Sulphate Soils Planning Guidelines December 2008 from the West Australian Planning Commission:

Principle 1 states:
“Acid sulphate soils should be considered in all planning decisions to avoid potential adverse effects on the natural and built environment.”

Principle 2 states:
“Disturbance of acid sulphate soils should be avoided wherever practicable. They deem not practicable for cases where land has already been zoned and committed for urban development”.

Click here to download Acid Sulfate Soils Planning Guidelines from Planning WA

No land has been zoned or committed yet in the East Wanneroo structure plan, however when this structure plan is approved then the “avoidance principle” which according to the government’s own guidelines is the cardinal principle, will not be able to be followed. Why? Once land is zoned the owner of the land has the right to develop the land according to the zoning.

According to the acid sulphate soil maps of this area the land being considered for urban or industrial zoning is in a medium to high risk acid sulphate soil area. Does this means that the government intends to go against its own planning guidelines?

But that's not all folks! Once planning is approved on an acid sulphate soil area the onus is on the developers to ascertain where the acid sulphate soil exactly is and manage it according to government guidelines. The only flaw is there is no transparency in this process, if a developer was to cut corners we the public would never know and have no access to their records of assessment and management of acid sulphate soils.

Therefore we encourage residents to demand all assessments and management of acid sulphate soil risks by government and developers be made transparent so that residents can scrutinise both government and developers processes for the testing and management of acid sulphate soils. For example in the present framework the residents will not know before it is too late when developers have cut corners or breached their guidelines. All reports should be able to be accessed by residents on line.
 

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