Meryl Swanson demands Defence improve communication on Port Stephens’ Red Zone


FEDERAL Member for Paterson Meryl Swanson has demanded Defence improve its communication to restore the trust of ‘Red Zone’ residents whose land remains contaminated by PFAS pollution from Williamtown RAAF base.

Ms Swanson, the deputy chair of the PFAS Sub-Committee of the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (JSCFADT), said after an online public hearing of the committee today that people were angry, frustrated, distrustful, and exhausted by their six-year battle with Defence.

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“They’ve just had enough.

“They’ve been told PFAS contamination is at the same level as it was in 2017, despite Defence spending more than $100 million, and the only opportunity they have for getting answers is a drop-in session on December 8.

“Defence should hold a public meeting to tell people why levels are not dropping and what they plan to do about it,” Ms Swanson said.

The hearing heard from residents Lindsay Clout and Jenny Robinson, who expressed frustration at poor communication from Defence.

“I thank these residents for their persistence and their courage, and I am so sorry they have to keep telling their stories and feel like they are getting nowhere,” Ms Swanson said.

Ms Swanson said a Community Reference Group and an Elected Representatives Group that had been disbanded should be reinstated so people could hear what federal and state agencies were doing.

“It’s really important that, as locals, we have a forum to know what is going on and to have our questions answered promptly and fully,” Ms Swanson said.

She said a class action that some residents had taken against Defence for economic loss because their properties had been devalued had not resolved the issue.

“The pollution is still coming off the base, people can’t use their land the way they want – they can’t grow veggies or have chooks for eggs – and they can’t afford to sell and move away.

“When a government has contaminated people’s land, it has to fix the problem.

“If Defence can’t clean up the mess, then it has to help people move on,” Ms Swanson said.



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