SA-Best Port Augusta remediation commitment and call for Senate inquiry into coal shutdown welcome steps for suffering communities

Press release - 23 February, 2018
February 24, 2018: Today’s twin commitments by Nick Xenophon’s state and federal parties to full and proper remediation of the Port Augusta Northern Power Station site and to call for a Senate inquiry into coal-fired power station shutdown are a welcome step on the road to justice for the coal dust-affected South Australian community.

In an indictment of the lack of action from other political parties, SA-BEST Legislative Council candidate Sam Johnson today promised to make a remediation plan an urgent priority for any party that would seek to form government after the SA election, while NXT Senator Rex Patrick will move to establish a Senate inquiry into the disposal and management of ash from coal-fired power stations across Australia.

“Today’s announcements are a belated but welcome acknowledgement from South Australian politicians that the Port Augusta community has been subjected to a science experiment,” said Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Alix Foster Vander Elst.

“Since the plant’s closure, Port Augusta residents have been subjected to plumes of coal dust blowing over the town, which saw complaints of burning eyes, coughing, respiratory distress, and a host of other symptoms.

“Nobody knows how much fly ash the community has been exposed to, and what the long term effects will be.”

Brett Prentis worked at the power station for decades and said the government and power station knew the dangers but still failed to protect the community.  

“We are concerned that Flinders power will run out of money and simply walk away from the site and leave the people of SA Australia with a huge clean-up bill and the community of Port Augusta with continuing health issues and an environmental disaster to the upper spencers gulf both on land and gulf waters,” Mr Prentis said.

“If the ongoing dust events are what the public can see of the failing rehabilitation plans we can only imagine how the site that we don’t see is being handled.

“Port Augusta isn’t the only community which will suffer if governments don’t act quickly to enact strong national regulations around the way these plants are closed down.”

Ms Foster Vander Elst said that the Liberal and Labor parties should match the commitment to fully remediate the sites, including Bird Lake, and support the NXT Senate inquiry to ensure nothing like this happens to other communities across Australia.

“It must be clear now to Jay Weatherill and Steven Marshall that Labor and the Liberals can no longer sit on their hands when it comes to this community’s health.”

“Both major parties need to step up and commit to remediate the whole site, pledge the money to rejuvenate Bird Lake, and pass national regulation to make sure nothing like this ever happens again as Australia starts the necessary transition away from coal.”

Notes to editors:

Greenpeace Australia Pacific is currently running a crowdfunded advertising campaign with Port Augusta community members, asking South Australian party leaders to commit to full and proper remediation of the Port Augusta Northern Power Station sites.

For interviews contact:

Simon Black

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Media Campaigner

0418 219 086 /