A petition against the proposed Nickel Sulphate Plant at Myrup Road will be presented before parliament this week, after 850 signatures were collected.
The petition comes after a number of community consultation sessions were held with both Alpha Fine Chemicals and the Esperance Shire Council in previous weeks.
The current proposal would see the company establish the plant on the south side of Myrup Road, 1.5 kilometres east of Coolgardie-Esperance Highway.
Nearby property owner and principal petitioner Emma Iddison said the signatures were collected in just over a week, with almost 10 per cent of the population signing.
Ms Iddison said, although she understood the economic benefits, members of the community were against the current proposed plant because it was ‘the wrong site’.
“I can’t stress this enough, of everyone that we’ve spoken to, no one is against the company or the process at all,” she said.
“It just needs to be somewhere that is less environmentally sensitive, that’s not as close to the wetlands and not as close to the town.
“We’re an isolated town and we need the jobs.
“It’s good for the economy and it’s good for other businesses but that site is just so risky if something should go wrong.”
Following the community meeting, Shire president Victoria Brown said council welcomed any new industry to Esperance, provided there was no impact to the town’s ‘pristine’ environment.
“We are always looking to diversify our economy and build on employment opportunities; however this cannot occur to the detriment of our natural assets,” she said.
“It was agreed at the meeting that it is vital that the community have an opportunity to become engaged in the process.
“The residents resigned themselves to the fact that as it is in the very early stages of the project, that they and the Council trust in the process.”
Alpha Fine Chemicals executive chairman Norm Taylor said he did know about the petition and would take on board both the positive and negative feedback received during the consultation process.
“[The consultation] went very well and I gave the representatives that were in attendance the background into the project, the company and how we ended up in the location that we have currently,” he said.
“We are taking on board all of the feedback we have received from the Esperance community, both from the ‘concerned residents’, if you like, and from the broader community.
“We’re taking it all on board and we are revisiting the question of the optimal location for the plant.”
Shire chief executive officer Matthew Scott said the shire would ensure the community have ‘every opportunity’ to express concerns and receive satisfactory responses.
“It is essential that the community, Council and Alpha Fine Chemicals continue to communicate throughout this process,” he said.
“The shire will support sustainable, environmentally sound developments that will bring economic investment to our region, bringing with it jobs and investment and we encourage our community to be a part of the process that allows proponents the opportunity to examine the suitability of a proposal.”
The Shire of Esperance confirmed that although no application had been made for planning approval, the shire did expect it would be forwarded to the Development Assessment Panel, given the expected value of the development.
The Nickel Sulphate plant has a projected life of more than 20 years, a project Mr Taylor said would provide at least 50 permanent jobs for the community.
Mr Taylor said the company believed the land was appropriate in terms of the zoning for the plant but did take the community feedback and the consultation process ‘very seriously’.
“The distance from the town is good and, as far as we’re concerned, there are no really closeby neighbours as it is already a fairly industrial area,” he said.
“You’ve got the abattoir, you’ve got the truck wash down there, you’ve got a quarry, so there are a number of activities within close proximity that are quite industrial, so we felt comfortable with that as a location.
“We still feel very comfortable with [Myrup Road] as a location but, having said that, there are clearly an element of the community that are strongly opposed to that and we are listening to them.
“We are flexible and the last thing we’re going to do is come into the town and divide the town.”
Member for the Agricultural Region Colin de Grussa, who will take the petition to parliament this week, said it was a standard process.
“We’ve had several meetings thus far regarding the project and, I have to say, it is in very, very early stages here, it’s pre-feasibility,” he said.
“Understandably, the community members are concerned.
“It’s a new industry for Esperance but I’m a firm believer that we need to diversify our economy and new industry is a good thing for Esperance, provided it can meet the expectations.”