Unrest over Alcoa zoning

Rueben HaleCountryman

The remains of one WA’s market gardening empires is set to be consumed by Alcoa’s residue disposal areas.

The historical market gardening precinct of Mandogalup is amongst the fray of outraged landowners in the Western Trade Coast industrial area stretching from Coogee to East Rockingham who face a proposed 1.5km buffer zone around Alcoa’s residue disposal areas, the nearest of which the company promised a decade ago to close by 2010.

Residents have accused the Barnett Government of not consulting them on plans to extend the buffer zone into the Perth southern suburb, which is approximately 5.5km east of Alcoa’s Kwinana Refinery

They argue the extension contradicts previous advice from the West Australian Planning Commission, the Jandakot District structure plan and a parliamentary inquiry that discredited the buffer in 2012.

The fight has pitted the Government, Alcoa and the Kwinana Industries Council against local residents and developers including Qube and Satterley Property Group, which would lose the right to develop 30 per cent of its Honeywood Estate west of Kwinana Freeway, costing it up to $55 million.

The White family, who at one time ran one of the largest market gardens in Western Australia along with about 60 other Mandogalup landowners, now face the prospect of falling property prices as the State Government plans to ban residential development in prime semi-urban real estate 30km south of Perth.

The family has been synonymous with marketing gardening in Mandogalup since 1931, after first settling in the area and struggling to make an income during the Great Depression.

In 1942 the family purchased a small plot of land to grow vegetables, which rapidly grew to be one of the State’s largest gardens supplying supplying vegetable giants Sumich Group and Sumpec Vegetables, at its peak.

Family spokesman Rob White said a legislated buffer will leave them unable to sell, subdivide or invest in their properties.

“In our heyday we had about 20 people including six family members worked on the farm,” he said. “My cousin and worked there for 35 years together and now the buffer zone is going to make the properties in the area virtually worthless. Before the buffers were introduced we used to grow vegetables right up to the boundary of Mandogalup road along with many other gardens that supplied the big vegetable companies.”

Mr White said the extension of the buffer will mean the end of farming in the area for ever.

“The original Alcoa buffer was imposed more than 30 years ago, which was unbeknownst to the Mandogalup farmers at the time, and no compensation has ever been offered,” he said.

“Today what is left of the old garden is run by my cousin, but the future of doing is any sort of farming in this area is gone now because the State Government have placed the interests of Alcoa ahead of everything else.”

“Now by extending the buffer to the freeway they think they will protect the community from contaminated dust from the Alcoa lake,” he said. But they’ve had dust monitors here for 40 years and there has been no conclusive science to prove that there is an issue.”

Minister for State Development Bill Marmion, who will be responsible for introducing the legislation to parliament was unavailable for comment.

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