A group of affected residents today protested what they alleged to be illegal dumping of clean fill earth from the Union Court Redevelopment at a building site in Wallaroo. The University has said construction contractor Lend Lease has the required permissions to “reuse” excavated earth at the site.
About 35 protesters gathered at the entrance to the Union Court building site near the CBE to highlight the effects of the dumping. “A high proportion of the fill from this site is illegally being dumped in NSW in an Environmental Protection Zone,” alleged Wallaroo resident John Connolly. The protesters claimed that cleanfill material was being dumped on a lot on Oakey Creek Road. “After 3km in the creek it gets to the Murrumbidgee River,” said Connolly. “We want it sent to the ACT dump”. The University confirmed that “a proportion of this clean excavated material [from the Union Court redevelopment] is being used to stabilise a building site on Oakey Creek Road in Wallaroo New South Wales”.
ANU said in a statement that “the developer has gained the necessary approval from Yass Valley Council to import 8000 cubic metres”, and that “to date, approximately 7500 cubic metres of Virgin Excavated Natural Material has been imported to the building site”. Wallaroo resident Alastair Gaisford alleged that the dumping had exceeded this amount. “Dumping in the ACT costs $95 a tonne, but it costs nothing to dump on the banks of the river,” said Gaisford. Residents claimed to have seen 80 to 200 trucks per day, asserting that the amount dumped was closer to 7500 cubic metres “each day”.
The protesters are also taking up the matter with Yass Valley Council. Yass Valley Council planning director Chris Berry told the Canberra Times that “the real question is whether the quantity of material coming to the site is consistent with the approval. That’s what we are trying to get to the bottom of.”
Other residents were concerned by the effect of the trucks on local roads. A resident identifying herself only as Margaret claimed that “the damage to Wallaroo Road is absolutely horrific … I want to know how much is being paid to the council to repair the road”.
The protesters moved from the building site entrance to the front of the Chancelry, where they were refused entry and met by several security guards. The guards clarified that they were “not going to stop [the group] from protesting”, and tempers cooled after Penny Cox, ANU’s Associate Director of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, spoke to the protesters. “If there is any evidence the contractors have done anything … against the law … that is something the University takes very seriously,” Cox told the protesters. “Obviously this is a legitimate concern … you’ve got lots of trucks going past,” she conceded, but emphasised that “[Vice-Chancellor] Brian [Schmidt] is 100% behind the environment”. The protesters dispersed soon after this interaction, with one remarking that this was the “first step”, and others thanking the security guards for arranging for someone to speak to them.