A public meeting in Dalton to discuss AGL’s proposed power plant was “railroaded” by community members, according to Upper Lachlan Deputy Mayor James Wheelwright.
Cr Wheelwright said he was “disappointed” in the meeting, as AGL had not been given a chance to go through the information they had wanted to present.
Instead, in a meeting which ran for over two hours, tempers became frayed as locals repeatedly made the point that their questions were not being answered. The AGL facilitator struggled to retain any semblance of control and most of the slides and information they had prepared were abandoned.
Yet, for the most part the meeting remained civil and in the end there was no need to call upon the two policemen stationed at the door to calm things down.
The meeting was the latest in a series and the most well-attended. It was the first that State Member for Burrinjuck, Katrina Hodgkinson has attended but locals and AGL representatives alike were pleased that she made the effort.
Locals continually forced discussion back to what they saw as the key issues, mainly air pollution, water sustainability, noise levels and traffic control.
“I came here to retire, to build my dream home and live a quiet life,” said one man. “Who would want to build a dream home near a power station?” he asked.
Several referred to the experience of residents at Uranquinty, where they claim AGL bought out local properties rather than shut down or fix the power plant.
AGL’s head of generation, Nigel Beam, said, “If our plant doesn’t meet the criteria, it will be shut down and not reactivated until it’s fixed.”
“Put it in writing!” was the shouted response from the floor, which was echoed by others around the room.
Gunning resident, artist and member of the Upper Lachlan Environment Association, Margarita Georgiadis said, “You have shown total disregard for this community. Wouldn’t it now be in the best financial sense to move [the project] somewhere else?”
AGL project manager for construction, Tony Fullelove, responded by saying “Every site has issues.”
Ms Giorgiadis vowed, “We’re going to do everything we can to shut you down.”
Dalton resident Alistair Waine chimed in: “Why has it taken so long to get to this point? Why has it taken so long to get any info? We haven’t had any info that is relevant.”
Mr Beam apologised for the failure in communication that had occurred so far.
“Your ability to communicate with us is absolutely miserable,” said another attendee, whose comment was applauded.
Attempting to put the meeting back on track, Mr Fullelove made a number of commitments.
“We have been accused of saying one thing now and another later,” he said. “What I am saying now is binding. We will not use diesel; we will conduct real time emissions measuring; the plant cannot run over 15 per cent in a calendar year; background emissions will be measured as soon as possible; we are committed to an F class turbine; AGL will install and upgrade air emissions control measures as the technology becomes available.”
Mr Fullelove also discussed the breakdown of emissions that are likely to come out of the smoke stack, reassuring those at the meeting that the levels would all be well within NSW limits.
“That doesn’t mean diddly. You can release more emissions because that’s what you’ve been given approval for,” Mr Wain said.
“It doesn’t mean anything because you’re not committed to it,” another added.
“Our reputation is our word,” Mr Fullelove said.
At the end of the meeting, Ms Hodgkinson committed to pursue a public meeting with the Planning Assessment Commission. She also said she would continue to monitor the issues and advocate for the community.
“I am open to this development but at the end of the day I represent you. I think the Planning Department should come here for a public meeting. I will follow that up this week,” she said.
Most locals left the meeting feeling they had made little headway.
Maureen Turland, one of the most vocal during the meeting, was dispirited.
“All of this should have been done a long time ago. I don’t think they took much notice of what was said today.”
Tony Dowling added, “It’s the same thing all the time, going round in circles. You can’t get a straight answer.”