by Matthew Newton
THE Cameby Concerned Citizen's Group will take its fight against an approved salt storage facility 10km west of Chinchilla to the Queensland Ombudsman.
CCCG committee member Glen Beasley, deputy chair Trevor Draper and Chinchilla Landcare chairperson Don Bell - vocal opponents of We Kando Pty Ltd's approved salt storage facility situated 10km from Chinchilla - travelled to Brisbane recently to bring their case to the attention of DEHP deputy director general Dean Ellwood.
The meeting, facilitated by Warrego MP Ann Leahy, also saw them raise the issue of the salt storage facility with Shadow Minister for the Environment Dr Christian Rowan.
The CCCG is concerned over the facility's close proximity to Stockyard Creek, a tributary of the Condamine River, and would like to see its approval overturned.
Mr Ellwood said he was grateful for the men taking the time to travel to Brisbane to meet with him and said he would provide a copy of the assessment report underpinning the State Government's approval of the salt dump "so they were able to understand the material the decision maker had in front of them at the time and how they reached that decision”.
Mr Beasley said the group sees writing to the state ombudsman as their next avenue.
"(The ombudsman) can consider firstly what we consider to be an improperly made decision to grant an Environmental Authority back in 2014 by the DEHP,” Mr Beasley said.
With the DEHP approving the company's EA back in 2014, the company began engaging with Western Downs Regional Council to put forward their development application for the facility.
Council first rejected the facility in March 2016 on the basis of environmental concerns, specifically rehabilitation of the site after operations ceased.
We Kando appealed against the decision in the Planning and Environment Court, and the council, acknowledging the State Government's new Chain of Responsibility laws, settled the appeal in July, with strict conditions.
The Chinchilla News understands the council had received legal advice it would be dragged into a costly and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle with We Kando if they fought the appeal because the development application conformed to the former Chinchilla Shire Planning Scheme.
In the early stages of engaging with We Kando, the council, having never dealt with an application for a salt storage facility before, contacted a third party consultant for a recommendation on how to classify the development, and was told it should be labelled as a "public utility”.
The Chinchilla News understands this recommendation was backed up by legal advice.
That classification of the DA as a "public utility” meant the DA conformed with the planning scheme and left council without a leg to stand on in We Kando's appeal against the initial rejection.
But Mr Beasley said he would still be interested to know "if there was a more appropriate classification representing what the facility was”.
"It still leaves in my mind a question as to the veracity of the legal / expert advice they got in that regard,” Mr Beasley said.
"It does seem very strange.”
Mr Beasley said the CCCG was waiting on advice from the Environmental Defenders Office on the steps involved in going to the ombudsman.
"Beyond that, then there is the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and we would once again, depending on advice from the EDO, consider mounting a challenge through that avenue as well.”