Objectors make voice heard

Debate: The proposed Chunxing battery plant has raised the ire of some residents. file photograph

Michelle Slater

Objectors to a planned used lead acid battery recycling plant in Hazelwood North gathered outside a state government building in Traralgon on Friday pushing for an Environment Effects Statement.

About two dozen community members with some donned in disposable hazmat suits, held signs in front of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning building.

The rally organised by ALiVe was calling on Planning Minister Richard Wynne to conduct an EES into the project to recycle 50,000 tonnes per year of batteries into refined lead at the Fourth Road site.

It comes after a recent Parliamentary Inquiry into air pollution in Victoria recommended the state government to conduct an independent EES into the project.

ALiVe secretary Maggie Jones said the hazmat suits represented the “toxic nature” of the plant.

“This will impact the whole region, not just Hazelwood North,” Ms Jones told The Express.

“We are calling for an EES to enact the recommendation from the parliamentary inquiry, and the fact we haven’t heard back from the government was extremely disappointing.”

Mr Wynne approved the project after the Environmental Protection Authority had granted a Works Approval for the application.

The approval will require developer Chunxing to comply with strict operating conditions.

Mr Wynne granted the planning approval based on expert advice, stating that the EPA approvals would be sufficient to ensure appropriate safeguards would be in place for the project.

But Ms Jones said the Chunxing proposal should not go ahead without an EES on top of the EPA approvals.

She stated the importance of thorough assessments and to look at projects comprehensively.

“This is an opportunity for the Latrobe Valley to be a part of a just transition that reflects the community’s needs and the community has said they don’t want this,” she said.

Chunxing chief executive Lakshman Jayaweera said the project had already gained an Environmental Protection Authority Works Approval, and the assessments did not trigger the need for an EES.

Dr Jayaweera said the EPA did not refer the project to the Planning Minister to consider carrying out an EES.

“Since Chunxing has successfully obtained EPA Works Approval, after an exhaustive assessment process, we see no purpose for conducting an EES,” Dr Jayaweera said.