Armidale Dumaresq Council’s controversial landfill project off Waterfall Way has received State Government approval and will now be reviewed by the Federal Government.
The Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) approved the development of the $14 million project, which will be situated about 12 kilometres east of Armidale, on the condition that Council make further provisions to minimise possible environmental harm from leachate and stormwater run-off.
The proposed landfill has been criticised due to its proximity to the World Heritage-listed Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.
Gara Valley Environment Preservation Association (GVEPA) president Geoff Fox has previously said the proposed site was only 4km away from the national park and that instead of building a new facility, Council should extend the current one at Long Swamp Road.
The GVEPA was also unconvinced that the proposed landfill would not result in contamination of nearby waterways.
The level of public interest and controversy over the landfill prompted the PAC to hold an open forum to hear the community’s concerns about the project in May.
Some of the concerns raised included the risk of water contamination, the clearing of vegetation for the facility, the use of contractors for the project and Council’s ability to fund the landfill.
But the Department of Planning and Infrastructure concluded that the environmental impact from the site would be “acceptable”.
Council’s original proposal included a dry basin that could accommodate a one in 100 year rain event for a one-day duration.
However, due to the project’s proximity to “sensitive downstream ecosystems” the PAC required that Council design the landfill to be able to accommodate a one in 100 year rain event for three days.
The PAC Determination Report states: “The Commission notes that the measures for management of stormwater and leachate in this approval are considerably more stringent than those normally required for landfills of this type. This is solely due to the site-specific constraints of this site and its proximity to highly sensitive environments downstream”.
The proposal has now been referred to the federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Council’s director of public infrastructure David Steller described the PAC’s amendments as “over and above what you would normally plan for” but said council was happy to make the changes.
General manager Shane Burns said Council has been trying to find a new landfill site for approximately 20 years.
“It will enable our community to manage its waste in the future,” he said.
“Waste management in Australia is not at a state where a council does not need a landfill.”
Mr Burns said the current landfill site is close to capacity and described Armidale’s current landfill situation as “critical” without a new site.
Mr Burns and Mr Steller said they were optimistic the DSEWPC would approve it considering the rigour of the State Government’s approval process.
The facility is designed to service Armidale for 50 years and would have capacity for 750,000 tonnes of waste.
However the Department of Planning and Infrastructure determined the landfill “would not add to existing pollution loads within the catchment”.
While it is not known how long it will take for the DSEWPC to deliver a verdict on the landfill site, both Mr Burns and Mr Steller agreed construction would take about 12 months.