Urunga: from disused poisonous waters became paradise

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THE RESTORATION of the Urunga wetlands (Guardian News, May 4) is a most impressive and amazing environmental transformation.

Clayton Colmer and his team have done a wonderful job and are to be congratulated. It is now a place of serenity and great beauty.

Let’s not forget however that this site has a sad and deplorable history. In 1969 an antimony processing company was given permission to develop a processing plant on this land. During its operation tons of highly toxic waste was spread on the foreshore of the site.

The toxic cocktail of heavy metals destroyed many native trees and poisoned the water ways. In 1974, only five years later, the plant was abandoned with no cleanup or restoration of the environment. Many years later, in 2011, ownership was transferred to NSW Government and so the problem of paying for the restoration was passed on to the taxpayer.

So have things changed? It does not seem right but this kind of situation is still commonplace. Over the intervening years plans have been put forward to levy bonds on mining companies to pay for the cleaning up of their sites after their mines become redundant.

However the legislation and funding schemes set up do not legally enforce mining companies to cover fully any restoration work required. There is little political will to address the situation and so it continues.

Why should the taxpayer subsidise the highly profitable mining companies and their shareholders in this way? It is simply not acceptable and failure to address restoration work often leaves a legacy of environmental degradation for future generations.

Thankfully this local site has now been beautifully restored but how many others are left in their abandoned state regardless of the environmental consequences and the threats to our health for years into the future. Political parties need to be much more proactive.

Marlene Griffin, Valla Beach

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