Communication for Sustainable Development

Green-tech hub blow from asbestos woes

Mike Rann, South Australian MP since 1985, sta...Image via Wikipedia
SOUTH Australian Premier Mike Rann's plans for a new $125 million green industries hub have suffered a setback in the face of concerns over asbestos and soil contamination.

The Rann government paid $32.5m for the former Mitsubishi Motors Australia vehicle assembly plant at Tonsley Park, in Adelaide's south, spruiking it as the future premier sustainable technologies site in Australia.

At the heart of the "clean-tech hub" was to be a state-of-the-art facility, bringing together TAFE, universities and industry.

However, inquiries yesterday revealed the government has scrapped the planned demolition of the main assembly building on the site and will instead reuse its "basic structure".

A spokesman for the department yesterday said the environmental condition of the site was being factored into the master plan, which had been delayed by at least three months.

But he conceded no risk assessment had been conducted.

A member of a joint government-TAFE committee to help facilitate the move to the site said asbestos was a major problem in the existing main building and might also be buried in other parts of the 61ha site.

The soil on the site was also contaminated with heavy metals.

The committee member, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions from the government, said the structure had an asbestos roof, floors and sheeting, and recladding it fell far short of what the Premier had initially promised. "The government has promised to clean up the asbestos, but the government has already been told that asbestos has been buried on the site in the past," the committee member said.

"A brand-new building was a good idea, but suddenly that was canned on the pretence of reuse and being 'renewable'. We have since found out that is nonsense."

A government spokesman yesterday conceded the extent of asbestos contamination was unknown, and would be "approached on a stage-by-stage basis". There was a "ballpark estimate" of the cost involved in addressing the problem, but he would not reveal the amount.

"The master plan being prepared by a Woods Bagot-led consortium has identified the value in developing a plan which is genuinely unique and iconic and exploits opportunities for adaptive reuse, particularly in the form of reuse of the basic structure of the main assembly building," a spokesman said in a written statement. "The government will be conducting the necessary environmental investigations in accordance with EPA guidelines."

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