Australian Military Sells Contaminated Land for Redevelopment

(Photo: A satellite image shows part of the Maribyrnong site. Credit: Google Maps screenshot)

by | May 25, 2018


(Photo: A satellite image shows part of the Maribyrnong site. Credit: Google Maps screenshot)

Australia’s Department of Defense is listing eight non-residential properties for sale across the country, but most are contaminated and the cost to rehabilitate them will largely be left to developers, the Guardian reported.

The land disposal program includes unloading former rifle ranges and armaments factories with contamination varying from minor to heavy depending on the site, journalists Kayleen Bell and Christopher Knaus wrote.

“In at least one case, legacy contamination has contributed to [the Department of Defense] selling land for a pittance,” they wrote. “The 170-hectare Mount Vincent rifle range, a site in Queensland that is contaminated with lead, was this year sold for a nominal [AUD] $1 fee to the Mackay regional council,” they reported, citing information from the Department of Defense and a Daily Mercury article.

One block up for sale is a 127.8-hectare former explosives factory site in Maribyrnong, a suburb northwest of Melbourne. “The federal and state governments see the land as a ‘major strategic redevelopment opportunity,’ largely because it’s the largest remaining urban infill site in metropolitan Melbourne, with room for 6,000 homes,” the reporters wrote. “But the land is known to be heavily contaminated.”

A year ago, the Age’s city editor Clay Lucas reported that a senate hearing investigating the sale of that land showed that the government could sell much of the highly toxic property without decontaminating it first. He also noted that in 2009, the cleanup costs for the entire site were estimated to be around 100 million Australian dollars.

The bulk of remediation for the Maribyrnong currently up for sale would need to be done by the purchaser, the deputy secretary of defense Steve Grzeskowiak said in Senate estimates earlier this year.

“Many of the contaminants on the [Defense] estate exist on brownfield industrial sites and industry is well-equipped to manage the risks posed by this contamination commensurate with their future development objectives,” a Department of Defense spokesperson told the Guardian. The contaminated sites, the reporters say, put a spotlight on the department’s environmental record.

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