George Gildea fears he's sitting on a time bomb.
The high pressure gas line dissecting his 154-hectare property on Middle Arm Road property is 47 years old, well beyond what he says is its stated 25-year life.
It was installed in 1974 and distributes gas from the 2081km long Moombah to Sydney pipeline. The distribution network surrounds Goulburn, with a section running just north of Marys Mount.
The government installed it but thanks to its sale a few years later, is now owned and operated by APA Group.
Mr Gildea said the company took little interest in the pipeline and the structures around it until recently when the council released its draft Urban and Fringe Housing Strategy.
Now it is asking for a 675 metre buffer on either side of the 25m wide easement, which the council says is in accordance with the Australian standard. This is to limit "sensitive land uses" like schools, aged care facilities, hospitals and places of public worship where evacuation would be difficult in the case of a rupture.
The Housing Strategy identifies low density residential as a suitable land use in the area. The council's strategic planning business manager Kate Wooll said some land could also be excluded from development around the easement.
In addition, in a submission to the council, APA said it would not allow an east-west road link across the area, which has been identified for future housing expansion. However a north-south road running parallel to the pipeline was possible.
Mr Gildea argues it's a case of a private company dictating terms to a planning authority when it should take more responsibility for the pipeline itself. It is located 200 metres from his home. He says the infrastructure is old and is not properly maintained.
"It must be the oldest high-pressure gasline in the world. I'm trying to impress on the council that they are sitting on a time bomb and that the older the pipeline, the greater the risk," Mr Gildea said.
"It is so stupid to leave that in the ground...People will take out thousands of dollars in mortgages and have a 47-year-old pipeline supplying them with gas."
He also argues the 675m buffer is an advisory distance only and is not mandatory. Further, Mr Gildea says Goulburn ratepayers and developers should not have to foot the bill for a safety management statement, as requested by APA Group, before any land rezoning or development applications.
"They put the pipeline down and should pay for it. It's outrageous. It's a con job and they should have 100 per cent responsibility for it. The council is between a rock and a hard place," he said.
It is so stupid to leave that in the ground...People will take out thousands of dollars in mortgages and have a 47-year-old pipeline supplying them with gas.George Gildea
Ms Wooll said it was an odd situation in that the council was not dealing with a public authority regarding public infrastructure. Instead it was totally reliant on a private company for information about the pipeline's quality and whether it needed upgrading in a particular section.
"We have to take that advice from them and there is no State intervention or oversight...Other councils have had the same issues over the years and have built along the pipeline without thinking about it," she said.
"The gas pipeline people do a presentation to council to alert us to the fact there needs to be a safety risk management plan whenever there is a change in land use around the line. It is significant infrastructure and there are safety implications. It's an interesting problem," she said.
But Ms Wooll wrote in her report to the October 15 council meeting, at which the housing strategy was discussed, that it was concerning the NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment didn't provide more strategic direction or advice on the matter, given the pipeline's extent and proximity to existing and future urban areas.
"Safety Management Statements (SMSs) are, to some extent, reliant on the provision of information from a private entity, and thereby may lead to a perception of the potential for these statements to be used to subsidise or fund the replacement or upgrade of aging infrastructure via the development process," she stated.
"It is considered that this is an area which is outside of the council's expertise to determine and...greater state government involvement to determine extent of responsibilities for upgrades would be of great assistance."
While the pipeline's existence doesn't affect the Housing Strategy's formulation, it will come into play at the rezoning and development application stage.
Mr Gildea questions why the company can accept houses being built around the pipe, but not places where people gather. He speculated APA simply wanted to sell its gas to homeowners.
The 91-year-old grazier says he doesn't want to sell or subdivide his land but is raising the matter in the public interest. The Strategy identifies half his land for low density residential and the other half as rural.
"My point is that these people are (APA) are trying to (convince) the council into protecting a pipeline that's 47 years old. I say it's deadly and could explode at any minute," Mr Gildea said.
An APA spokesman said the comapny owned and operated high pressure gas lines in a range of environments across Australia, including urban growth areas such as Goulburn.
"All pipelines must be designed and maintained in accordance with Australian standard AS2885, Pipelines - Gas and liquid petroleum, which requires APA to take account of the current and reasonably foreseeable land uses along the pipeline corridor for the design life of the pipeline," he said in a statement.
"As existing pipelines constructed many years ago were not necessarily designed at that time to be in a high-density urban environment, APA has a statutory obligation to carefully assess the impact of any new development proposals to ensure the pipeline is protected and the risk of a rupture is kept as low as reasonably practical.
"This generally doesn't preclude urban development from occurring around a pipeline. Typical urban housing, for example, is located in the vicinity of pipeline easements across the country. Also, the planning of open space in new residential developments is often connected to the location of existing pipeline easements.
"However, AS2885 does discourage the location of sensitive land uses in close proximity to a pipeline, where this can be avoided. Examples of sensitive land uses that are generally specified in pipeline safety management plans include hospitals, aged care centres and child care centres."
In regard to the Housing Strategy, he said the company was happy to work with the council "to ensure that community safety was prioritised."
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