Crown Lands ordered to taken action to prevent pollution from former Stockton tip site

Liability: Hunter Water initially placed geofabric over a section of the former Stockton tip site on Crown Land. The geofabric was recently torn off in heavy swell. Picture: Matthew Kelly
Liability: Hunter Water initially placed geofabric over a section of the former Stockton tip site on Crown Land. The geofabric was recently torn off in heavy swell. Picture: Matthew Kelly

An environmental disaster is unfolding at the former Stockton tip site due to inconsistent approaches to site’s management, Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp has told Parliament.  

While the majority of the previously exposed section of the former tip is on land owned by Hunter Water, a recently re-exposed section has appeared on land managed by the Department of Crown Lands.

Unlike Hunter Water, Mr Crakanthorp told Parliament that it appeared Crown Lands had done little to contain the pollution that had been exposed on its land. 

“I was under the impression that Hunter Water was in charge of the clean-up, so I contacted it yesterday. I was told that it had removed the refuse on its land back from the shoreline by 10 metres. However, the rest of the tip crossed over onto land owned by NSW Crown Lands. Because it has not had the refuse removed, it is now washing into the ocean. Why?,” Mr Crakanthorp said.

“When Hunter Water got onto the clean-up earlier this year, why was NSW Crown Lands not on the other side of the tip doing its job? Hunter Water crews have been inspecting and maintaining the covered waste on its land regularly, but the mess on the other side of the tip remains unmaintained and a risk to residents and beachgoers.”

While three ministers – environment, water and utilities, and Crown lands –  are responsible for overseeing the site, there is no single plan of action in place to control pollution from the tip or oversee the site’s rehabilitation.

Mr Crackanthrop moved a motion that noted Hunter Water’s efforts to remediate the tip site on land that it owned. This included removing rubbish ten metres from the shoreline.

The motion also noted that Crown Lands had not remediated the tip site on land that it controlled. 

The motion also condemns the government for “not requiring the Crown land to be remediated for failing to prevent further rubbish from spewing into the ocean.”

A Department of Industry - Lands and Water spokeswoman agreed the recent swell had uncovered part of the rubbish tip on the Crown reserve.

She said the department was planning urgent works to contain the site while a long term management plan was negotiated.

An Environment Protection Authority spokeswoman said the authority was aware that a section of geotextile cover, installed by Hunter Water to contain exposed waste on Crown Land had been compromised. 

“The EPA has been in contact with Crown Lands and they are developing a response to the issue. The EPA will continue to monitor the progress of the clean-up,” she said.

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