A long running Land and Environment Court case between the council and the operator of a Tarago district car wrecking yard has almost ended.
The council took action against the owner of a Cullulla Road property at Mayfield in 2015, claiming 10 hectares covered by thousands of car bodies was posing an environmental risk. Staff first became aware of the issue in 2009 following residents’ complaints but did not take court action until 2013 after “exhausting all avenues” for the cars’ removal.
A report to the most recent meeting stated the property was allegedly used as a storage site to support wrecking activities for the owner, who ran a scrap metal business in Fyshwick. The council compliance officers worked with the owner to remove the vehicles.
“At this time, continued requests to allow property inspections were avoided by the owners and resulted in increasingly hostile interactions,” the report stated.
In 2013, the council issued an order to cease operations and remove the car bodies and stored metals. Staff were authorised to use “reasonable force” to enter the property. In September, 2015, the council commenced enforcement action “to eliminate potential health risks and environmental contamination.”
At that time, Mr Bennett issued an apology to the Tarago community, some of whom had complained about the contamination risk to nearby wetlands.
“It is very very clear to me that this organisation has dropped the ball,” he told The Post in 2015.
“It came to my attention about four weeks ago, and I will be ensuring that we pick this up again and deal with it because the community has been seeking this from us many times since 2009.”
“This is a very significant contamination issue which we should have addressed with more vigour... Lake Bathurst and the wetlands are very environmentally sensitive areas and we should have been working closely with this.”
In November, 2016, following negotiations, the court ordered that the site be cleared of all vehicles and parts by May 30, 2018.
Council general manager Warwick Bennett reported that more than 1000 vehicles had been removed, with about 40 remaining.
“In essence the orders were not completely complied with, however it was established by council officers that the risk of environmental harm has now been removed and the site is broadly in keeping with what could be expected of a rural property,” he said.
The council secured further orders enabling inspections. If it is satisfied with the level of compliance by August 18, each party will pay their own costs.
Mr Bennett said the council had tried to keep these to a minimum by working with the owner. He estimated the cost at “less than $50,000.”