Neighbours in Kimba are still opposed to nominated nuclear waste facility sites

DISTRUST in the federal government and the process of nominations in the search for a national low to intermediate radioactive waste site are just some of the reasons Austin Eatts is against the facility being placed at Kimba.

Mr Eatts is a direct neighbour to one of the newly nominated sites in the Kimba district and said the national nuclear waste facility was not something rural or regional people should be responsible for.

He said Eyre Peninsula had a long memory for the impact of politicians’ “dishonesty” during and after nuclear bombs were tested at Maralinga, to the north west of Eyre Peninsula.

“There is a long history of dishonesty about politicians, they told us then and after that Maralinga was safe.

“This is the same message they are giving us now, things will be safe, why should we believe them?

“My feelings about Eyre Peninsula and the state having anything nuclear has not changed since then,” Mr Eatts said.

He said he did not want the responsibility of making a decision that would impact generations for hundreds of years not only for Kimba or Eyre Peninsula residents but statewide. 

“Once we accept this site here, we have opened the door to further nuclear activity.” 

Mr Eatts said the vote to be undertaken by the South Australian Electoral Commission would settle the issue for him however he was concerned if the vote was against further progression it would not be the end of the matter.

“Will it be the end of it for those who want it?

“They have already brought it back once after we settled it as a community we didn’t want it,” he said. 

“Two million dollars (offered to the community by the government) is a lot of money to you and I but for a community it is not much and no amount of money will fix the division in the community.” 

Rachel Yates is a neighbour to the nominated Napandee site in the district of Pinkawillinie and said she was upset her property was now even closer to the proposed facility.

"Last time we were within a 10-kilometre radius and were considered neighbours. 

“We are now about 3km from the site and are disappointed with claims that all neighbours are supportive when this is not the case.

“I feel the government keep changing the goal posts to make Kimba fit the criteria,” Mrs Yates said. 

A Department of Industry, Innovation and Science spokesperson said the definition of direct neighbour had not changed and the department was proactively engaging with people with a shared fence line, people in the immediate area, and people in the broader community.

Mrs Yates said she had read guidelines that recommended the facility should not be sited on arable land and she and her husband were concerned about the impact on farming land.

“We met with Minister Canavan recently and he commented on the government making a promise to the people of Lucas Heights about not storing the intermediate level waste there and that he needed to honour that promise.

“This makes me think the low level waste is just a smoke screen for the future disposal of intermediate waste” she said. 

She said she questioned aspects of the vote to be held at the end of the 90-day community consultation including who would get to vote, how the question would be asked and the determining factors to indicate whether to move forward in the process or not.

“I am very concerned that neither the minister, department, nor council will commit to a percentage to determine broad community support,” she said. 

The department spokesperson said there was no predetermined poll percentage because it could give an “inaccurate depiction of the community sentiment”.

“It may also inadvertently disenfranchise smaller but important stakeholder groups (such as neighbours), noting that no one community group has the right to veto.”

The spokesperson said the poll, submissions and feedback from meetings would all be used to determine whether there was broad enough community support to move to the next phase. 

Mrs Yates said the division between people in the community was real and “plenty” of people were just putting on a “good front”.

“I don't feel comfortable in my community any more but we are not going to carry on in the street, we put on our 'pretend' face and keep working and doing things for our community, it's still our place to live,” Mrs Yates said.

"I am not at all comfortable living near this and never will be.

“I just know in the pit of my stomach I don't want this and that feeling is hard to explain. 

“I just can't understand how anyone can be made to live near something they don't want to." 

Sue Woolford said there had been a breakdown in relationships in the community and she had continually petitioned the government with future plans for the community as a whole to move forward.

She said after the last round of the nuclear waste facility debate she had wanted to “regain community cohesion” by using Peter Kenyon, a community facilitator, to run workshops and brainstorm positive ideas for an inclusive, healthy and connected community. 

“I have repeatedly asked for support for the after effects this process has had on our community, as community impact is immeasurable but was told that no one had requested any,” Mrs Woolford said. 

The department spokesperson said a range of general mental health services were available.

“We have provided information about them on request and there has been no suggestion they don’t meet community needs,” the spokesperson said. 

Mrs Woolford said Kimba had been built on people working together for generations. 

“We only have one community and we need to embrace the Bank of I.D.E.A.S.’ 10 key community beliefs for positive change to happen together, not continue as a split community in deadlock. 

“Respect has to be shown to small communities which rely on each other to survive, as we are all for Kimba’s future”she said. 

Senator Nick Xenophon recently questioned Minister Canavan in federal parliament on the definition of broad community consent, the costs associated with the three community consultations undertaken in Kimba, what other sites were being considered, and if Crown land would be considered.

Mrs Woolford said she and other members of the No Radioactive Waste on Agricultural Land in Kimba or SA group had tried to organise a community forum with all sides represented but said the government did not want to participate.

“A debate with everyone represented would be a fair way for the government to allow people in the community to make up their minds, not just a continuous sell of the alleged benefits.

“People should have the right for their government to provide all sides not just one to suit its purpose,” Mrs Woolford said. 

The department spokesperson said debates had “sides, advocates and opponents” and it was was the wrong depiction of the department’s role in the project.

“Whether there should be such a debate is matter for the community and not the department to determine; we are here to provide information about the process and facility not to advocate for its location in Kimba,” the spokesperson said. 

The spokesperson said the department had engaged with all members of the community and responded to questions from those who supported, opposed or were undecided about the project.

“The department provides access to professional experts with technical expertise that can inform the community and answer their questions with facts, leading to a decision based on the facts. 

“It is not the department’s role to support advocates and opinion leaders who seek to influence the community’s opinion.” 

The spokesperson said at the request of the community or in line with questions received the department was providing experts in various areas such as radioactive waste management, seismology, nuclear medicine, science and safety.

“This is very different to bringing out the various pro-nuclear energy, power and waste management advocates from industry and academia, or the various anti-nuclear advocates.” 

Local farmer Justine Major said she and husband Andrew had not been able to make business plans or look at future expansions or developments since the nuclear site proposal had launched in Kimba. 

“The reality is people will leave, I know some people don’t believe this will happen but it will.

“I can’t feel motivated to work toward the future when I am in limbo about this site and how many times do we have to deal with this issue? We can’t make plans,” Mrs Major said. 

The department spokesperson said there was evidence proximity to a nuclear waste facility did not negatively impact affected regions.

“The local, national and international experience is that there is no credible chance that this facility would impact adversely on businesses, house or land prices in whichever region it is located,” the spokesperson said.

This story Neighbours still say no first appeared on Eyre Peninsula Tribune.