A South Australian regional town desperately needs to become the site of a nuclear waste dump to stop the town’s decline, its federal MP says.
Government chief whip Rowan Ramsey’s dreams for his hometown on the Eyre Peninsula are one step closer to reality as the bill cementing the site passed the House of Representatives.
“The project will be a game changer for Kimba. It will offer a secure future,” the Liberal MP told parliament on Thursday.
Native title holders have unsuccessfully gone to the courts to block the facility.
Environmental advocates are concerned the bill has major holes, while Labor wanted the government to let a Senate committee review the proposal.
“Surely we can wait a little bit longer and get this right,” Labor MP Josh Burns told parliament.
The Australian Conservation Foundation says the proposed facility would have fewer safeguards than the more than 100 smaller sites scattered across the country.
“There is no pressing need for a centralised storage site,” ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney told AAP.
“The federal nuclear regulator has stated there is no urgency to move the most problematic (waste) from its current site at Lucas Heights (in southern Sydney).”
Transporting the waste from sites across Australia to the new major facility also posed a risk, Mr Sweeney said.
The local native title holders tried to have the proposal thrown out by the courts in March.
Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation claimed some votes on whether to support the facility had been excluded.
The ballot returned about 62 per cent support for the dump.
While native title rights don’t exist at the Napandee property site, the bill allows the government to override nearby rights holders and not seek permission to build access roads on their land.
Under the bill, the Kimba farm would become Australia’s number one nuclear waste dump, with the facility expected to store radioactive refuse for 100 years.
A one-off $20 million community fund would help establish and maintain the site.
Mr Ramsey said it would create 33 local permanent jobs.
He painted a picture of a town in decline, with a shrinking population, no permanent doctor and even the loss of three of its four footy clubs.
“Survival of our towns will require something new, something outside the square,” Mr Ramsey said.
“I’m convinced 100 other communities around Australia will look at Kimba and ask, ‘Why didn’t we put our hand up?'”