From chemical wasteland to significant wetland to NSW award winner

 Clayton Colmer, Project Manager, with Jason Bashforth, Construction Supervisor.

Clayton Colmer, Project Manager, with Jason Bashforth, Construction Supervisor.

It’s a project that has captured the hearts and minds of all – the Urunga Wetlands remediation – and now it’s been recognised as an achievement on a statewide scale.

The NSW Soil Conservation Service (SCS) has been recognised at this year’s Civil Contractors Federation (CCF) Earth Award in Sydney for excellence in civil construction.

The SCS was announced winner of category 3, being $5 to $10 million range, for the Urunga Wetlands remediation (formerly the Antimony Processing Plant).

The project was judged on criteria including community benefit, local employment, overcoming challenges, environmental management and quality best practice.

Project manager, Clayton Colmer, said he and the team were ecstatic with the win.

“We were totally stoked when they announced our winning name in front of 500 top level construction contractors,” Clayton said.

“This award recognises the huge effort by our team many of whom are from Bellingen Shire including Brent and Elise Hogarth of Coast2coast Earthworx, Jeff Lane, Ben Perrim, Mark Grebert, Sam Longdin, Steven Belthouser, the Tarrant family of Tarrant Building, Nick Tyson of Tyson Earthmoving, as well as services from Tom Munnelly of Ryco, Brett and Sharon of Westella Motel, the Boardwalk Cafe, and Chris and Layla Phillips.

“It was through respectful cooperation by residents, businesses, Bellingen Shire Council and the community that this project was a success and it is great to see the community really embracing the recovering Wetland – that is the real reward.”

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NSW Minister for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole congratulated Soil Conservation Service and said the site has been transformed thanks to their work. 

“In the early 1970s a significant quantity of waste flowed into the Wetlands, impacting water quality and large areas of paperbark forest,” he said.

Mr Toole said a comprehensive remediation plan by the Soil Conservation Service in the Department of Industry – Lands and Forestry has transformed the site.

“What was once a degraded area is now a beautiful parkland for the community to enjoy,” Mr Toole said. “The remediation work has seen around 36,400 tonnes of soil and sediment treated and isolated. Water quality has also improved significantly, both on the foreshore of the Wetlands and downstream.”

Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey also congratulated Clayton and the team and said the Urunga Wetlands is now a great destination for locals and visitors.

“The site now has a 150 metre boardwalk allowing people to walk over the wetlands and a 450 metre walking track surrounding the park,” Ms Pavey said.

“The project has also provided a boost for the local economy, employing 150 people and calling on the services of around 250 local businesses over the last 18 months.”

During the opening of the remediation site in May, Bellingen Shire Council mayor, Dominic King, said for more than 20 years experts have grappled with the remediation the former antimony processing site.

“Considered as one of the most contaminated sites in NSW, over the past six years various arms of government and council have worked to acquire the site, and to understand and implement a remediation technique which is best practice,” mayor King said.

“Remediation of any site is a complex and expensive business, with the Urunga Wetland site involving a $10 million investment in the Shire.

“Challenging projects such as this bring out the best in processes and people. This site has been transformed from a wasteland to a pristine wetland under the guiding hand of Bellingen local, Clayton Colmer from the Soil Conservation Service leaving a lasting legacy that will be a jewel in the crown of the beautiful seaside town of Urunga.

The project was funded by the NSW Department of Industry – Lands ($7 million), the Division of Resources and Energy, Derelict Mines Program ($2.3 million) and the NSW Environmental Trust ($700,000).

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