Nuclear response to waste dump proposal in tiny Qld town
A MAYOR kept in the dark, an MP with half the facts and a community thrust into the national spotlight. It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie, but for the tiny town of Oman-ama, west of Warwick, it's becoming a reality.
Oman-ama is one of six sites in Australia that could become a nuclear waste dump, according to a Federal Government proposal.
The proposal has cast a national spotlight on the region, with mixed views about whether the Southern Downs is the right place for the nation's nuclear waste.
There will be 100 days of community consultation before the Federal Government makes a decision on which of the six sites will be chosen.
The community that accepts the waste will receive $10 million.
In a bizarre twist to the tale, Goondiwindi Mayor Graeme Scheu said he had been given no warning from the Federal Government.
"I had no idea it was progressing - I didn't even know they were looking in Australia let alone in our area - it was a bit of a shock," he said.
"You can't just make hasty decisions on no information, there are months of community consultation ahead of us."
Cr Scheu has concerns about how waste would be transported and its effect on Coolmunda Dam.
The mayor wasn't the only politician kept in the dark on the proposal.
Southern Downs MP Lawrence Springborg said he wouldn't have a problem with a low-level nuclear waste dump.
Mr Springborg is calling for more facts so the community can make an informed decision.
"Some of the material that I have seen suggests it'll be low-level medical waste that's from medical procedures used to save people's lives," he said.
The Member for Southern Downs owns a property at Yelarbon, about 40 minutes for Oman-ama.
When asked if he'd be happy to have the waste in his own backyard, Mr Springborg said it was difficult to say.
"If it's low-level medical waste then I personally wouldn't have a problem with it, but others might not," he said.
Similar views were shared by LNP Maranoa candidate David Littleproud, who is keeping an open mind on the issue.
"I'm still in discovery phase - if it's low-grade nuclear waste then I want to get more facts how it's stored, the mode of transport, and the risks to the land," he said.
"The important thing here is that we're in a consultation phase - we need to get the facts to have an informed debate."
Not everyone is supportive of the idea.
Queensland senate hopeful Belinda Marriage has described the proposal an attack on local farmers.
"The Oman-ama area is a rich agricultural area - growing fine wool, prime lambs, goats, and cattle, as well as having cereal crops and olives groves," she said. "There is no room for toxic waste to be dumped into such an important area."
The Karara sheep farmer said the Southern Downs has had enough environmental disasters.
"Not now and not ever should nuclear waste material be brought into our rich agricultural and prime produce region," she said.
The proposal has also been slammed by the Australian Nuclear Free Zones organisation.
Secretary Paul Tully said the plans put southern Queensland at risk, with hundreds of trucks carting dangerous radioactive waste through the region.
Sarah Moles from the Southern Downs Protection Group also had concerns.
"It's really hard to know - we don't know the volume of waste, we don't know how they're preparing to store it," she said.
The Daily News phoned Southern Downs Mayor Peter Blundell for comment on the controversial plan but no response was received.