Gasworks Controversy Gathers Steam

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Gasworks controversy gathers steam

By Zoe Tovey

Port Phillip Council has put its plans to raze and rebuild the contaminated Gasworks Arts Park on hold, in the wake of community concerns that the council is not doing enough to ensure park users’ safety, or alternatively, that the proposed demolition of the existing site is too drastic a step.

Earlier this year, council officers reported that the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) had declared the park was contaminated with heavy metals and hydrocarbons, the result of its former use as a gasworks plant. The council’s Draft Park Plan recommended that all infrastructure and vegetation at the site be removed, and a half-metre layer of fresh soil deposited across the entire site.

However, Mayor Amanda Stevens said at a council meeting on June 25 that the council had not yet made any final decisions on the future of the park and urged the community to continue providing feedback on the draft plan.

“We recognise that some in the community are uncertain that the site poses a health risk and consider Council’s remediation plan to address contamination is unwarranted or too drastic. Others have told us they are very concerned about the presence of contamination and want something to be done to ensure the long term safety of all park users,” she said.

“Our dilemma is we want our community to continue to enjoy our lovely park and also ensure that Council is dealing responsibly with the soil contamination.”

Council will consider a report in September summarising opinions gathered during the consultation process and suggesting further options for the park.
To allay concerns residents have about contamination at the site, Council has commissioned an independent human health impact assessment of the park and will release the results to the community.

In light of community concerns about the draft plan, in particular the proposal to remove all the park’s mature trees, Council is considering the following options, with a decision to be made in September.

1: Undertake full soil remediation in accordance with Draft Park Plan. This involves removing all vegetation for soil capping. Replacement trees would then be planted and the park upgraded with new facilities including seating, lighting and barbecues.

2: Proceed with soil remediation in a staged way, so the whole park does not need to be closed and sections of it remain accessible to the community.

3. Suspend the Draft Park Plan, subject to EPA support, to enable further testing for approval by the EPA-approved auditor to ascertain whether some treed areas of the park can be excluded from the capping remediation.
Cr Stevens said Port Phillip Council would continue to consult the community over the best way forward for the park, and would strive to make the process as transparent as possible.

“Council is actively listening to community concerns, and as part of our current consultation process, we will have further conversations with a cross-section of the community that will help me and my fellow councillors determine the next steps,” she said.

“These conversations are not about trying to convince people about the full soil remediation solution outlined in the current draft park plan. We truly want to understand what would give people confidence that Council is making the right long term decision for our community and the future of the park.

“I invite (our community) to work with us and help us resolve this dilemma and agree on the best way forward.”

 

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