Port Augusta residents who have been choking on harmful coal dust for more than a year have taken their frustrations to Jay Weatherill in Adelaide and affixed dust masks throughout the city’s CBD along with messages demanding that the Premier commit to cleaning up the problem.
Early this morning Greenpeace activists scaled a number of iconic statues across the South Australian capital in a bid to highlight the longstanding coal dust problem caused by the failed efforts to rehabilitate the decommissioned Flinders Power station site.
The centrepiece was the 4m-high statute of Queen Victoria in the square directly across the road from Weatherill’s Adelaide office. Activists placed a large dust mask over the monarch’s face as well as a sign reading “Hey Jay, stand up for clean air”, referring to the Premier’s election campaign slogan.
“Port Augusta suffered poor air quality throughout the operational life of the plant and people’s health remains at risk more than a year’s after the power station’s closure,” local business owner Alan McMahon said.
“The current rehabilitation plan doesn’t even meet the EPA’s own guidelines. Premier Jay Weatherill has led the charge to renewables and for that he needs to be commended. What we want to see now is leadership in remedial action and for him not to leave Port Augusta residents with a dust problem for the next 20 years.”
The Labor Party is the only major political party in South Australia yet to commit to the full and proper remediation of the power plant site.
“The Liberal Party and SA Best have both committed to doing the right thing by the people of Port Augusta. Mr Weatherill now needs to match that commitment,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Campaigner Martin Zavan said.
“Jay Weatherill portrays himself as a leader in the transition to renewable energy. Those transitions need to be planned so communities are not left dealing with health and environmental problems that are foreseeable and avoidable.”
Port Augusta’s coal-fired power station closed in mid-2016 but more than a year and a half later the town is still subjected to regular dust events, demonstrating that the current rehabilitation plan has failed.