Port Kembla stack's finally coming down

The Port Kembla stack will topple in February. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER
The Port Kembla stack will topple in February. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

A new demolition date for the stack has been set for early next year after the NSW planning department signed off on Port Kembla Copper's plans to bring it down.

PKC boss Ian Wilson announced on Wednesday the 198-metre chimney would fall on February 20, more than five months later than originally planned.

The Illawarra landmark's September removal was cancelled at the last minute due to community fears about remaining asbestos levels in the chimney, as well as air pollution and other risks associated with the demolition and evacuation plans.

A revised proposal has now been approved by Planning NSW, after it was reviewed by a working group made up of the Environment Protection Authority, WorkCover, NSW Police and Wollongong City Council.

An independent industry expert had also verified the plans, NSW Planning said.

"Public submissions received during the exhibition were also carefully considered by the department and the working group and the plans were found to be comprehensive and appropriate - with public safety the paramount consideration," the department said.

Mr Wilson yesterday welcomed the green light, saying he hoped it would allay community fears and allow his company to finish off the project to clear the stack site.

"A considerable amount of work has been done by some very professional people who have reviewed and commented on the plans and I think the community can rest assured the event will pass without risk of harm to people, property and the environment," he said.

NSW Planning said it would continue to finetune PKC's plans and work closely with the community as the demolition date approached.

Despite the assurances, Wollongong councillor Vicki Curran was disappointed by the planning department's decision.

She said the community had not had access to detailed modelling data that was used to form the demolition plan and was still particularly concerned about toxic materials becoming airborne during demolition.

Cr Curran also raised concerns about a February demolition date, because she said the wind and weather patterns would carry dust particles as far as Albion Park.

"I'm really concerned about the safety of our community, especially if it comes down in summer," she said.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge echoed the concerns, saying he would examine the government's sign-off conditions to ensure anti-pollution measures were in place.

"This decision does not allay the very real concerns about the risks of contaminated waste arising from the demolition," Mr Shoebridge said. "It is unfortunate that the Department of Planning did not seriously consider the less polluting alternative of retaining the stack as a local landmark."


THE NSW planning department found:

• The Port Kembla stack was structurally sound and would remain so until the date of demolition.

• There was no asbestos present.

• The demolition technique proposed by PKC was appropriate for the site and could be safely carried out with minimal disruption to the community.

• The techniques proposed to manage dust emissions should minimise air quality impacts on surrounding properties.

• The proposed evacuation of surrounding properties was extensive and would adequately manage risks while minimising disruption to the community.

• The proposed noise, vibration and dust monitoring network to be established around the site was  comprehensive and would appropriately measure and verify impacts.

•  Structural impacts on properties in the vicinity of the demolition site were unlikely.


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