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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
Sydney Harbour Federation Trust

Sydney Harbour Federation Trust


CHAIR: Mr Bailey, would you like to make an opening statement?

Mr Bailey : No.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Mr Bailey, it is like speed dating, this morning. We have all of 10 minutes with you. Can you give us a quick update on the planning issues associated with the future of the HMAS Platypus redevelopment, please.

Mr Bailey : At HMAS Platypus we are proceeding with the decontamination works. They have been staged, and a number of contracts let. The final and largest contract tender to remove the most toxic of the materials—the tar materials—is in its final stages, possibly hours, of the assessment. So we would hope to have a result and a contract issued in a very short time; within the next week.

As for the planning issues you referred to, we have a management plan for the site, which was signed off by the then minister some few years ago. We have not developed that plan any more because we have been waiting for the ramifications of the decontamination work to become apparent. So once we have dug the whole site up undoubtedly issues will arise that will impinge on that plan. So we will need to make modifications and refinements to that and undoubtedly some costing adjustments as a consequence. But we are waiting until we have really started digging the place up completely before we do any more.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: I will take the two areas separately, I guess. In terms of the remediation, firstly, a number of preliminary tenders have been let.

Mr Bailey : Yes.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: You are at the very, very advanced stage, by the sound of it, of the primary tender, which is to achieve what, precisely?

Mr Bailey : To remove the tarry waste from the site—the by-product of the coal gas plant that existed there until the Commonwealth resumed the site in 1942. It was a coal gas-generating facility, and a by-product of that industrial process was tar, which they buried in pits under the ground. Those pits are still there. Because the pits were excavated out of sandstone and the sandstone is porous, some of that tar, which is in a liquid form, moves through the porous sandstone.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: How many tenderers did you have for that?

Mr Bailey : Six.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: And you are down to negotiating with the final one, I assume.

Mr Bailey : It is between two.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Are you able to tell us who the six tenderers are? Is that public information?

Mr Bailey : It would be public information, but I cannot rattle them all off the top of my head. I can certainly give them to you. It is not a secret. I will remember some and not others and I suspect that is not a good idea.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: That is fine. Obviously, given you are in advanced stages of negotiation, I cannot ask you for a final value of the tender. Is there an advertised range in that regard?

Mr Bailey : There is not an advertised range for this component. The total cost of the contract, including all preceding contracts, was $46 million.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: That is $46 million for the total cost of the clean-up. That is, $46 million just for remediation works.

Mr Bailey : Correct.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Will you, the board or the minister be announcing the winning tender relatively soon?

Mr Bailey : We hope to, unless something happens in the last stage of the negotiations with the shortlisted ones. Then we would hope to announce the winning tenderer in a matter of weeks.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: That is just a matter for board sign-off, isn't it? You have been appropriated the money and you do not need to go to the minister.

Mr Bailey : It is, although we are doing this on behalf of the defence department. It is defence department funds that are funding this activity. We are working closely with them in accordance with the memorandum of understanding. We have, at the very least, monthly and sometimes more frequent meetings with them to keep the people in Defence across progress and whatever changes are taking place.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: That is an exercise for information sharing and ensuring they are informed. Your board signs off on this contract and decides how, when and who announces it?

Mr Bailey : Correct. Our board, but also our minister, has an approval process in a contract of this value as well.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: So the minister has final approval over the contract?

Mr Bailey : Yes, I guess it is a final approval. I am not sure who is final. They are all final to me!

Senator BIRMINGHAM: But there is a ministerial tick-off of some description—

Mr Bailey : Yes.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: to go through as well. Is it still the plan for these remediation works to be completed by mid next year?

Mr Bailey : It is, yes.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: How quickly would you expect them to commence under this contract?

Mr Bailey : We would expect them to commence on site within two to three weeks of getting the go-ahead.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: That is fairly rapid. Is there a peak period in terms of disruptions or impacts that would see works at their most intense?

Mr Bailey : I expect there is, but I would be guessing as to when that is. I think there is no doubt about a peak period. The most difficult part of the contract is the extraction of the tarring material, which I am told is very odorous when it is pulled out of the ground. There is a complex system of their management. The whole thing is done in a very large and enclosed marquee and the air is filtered through double carbon—activated carbon—filters. That period is probably the most difficult and one that we have to be aware of.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: How is the waste transported off-site?

Mr Bailey : It is being barged off-site.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: And transport to?

Mr Bailey : A licensed landfill. There are two types of waste: about a third of it will go that way; the other two thirds, which are the less toxic materials, will be processed on-site and reburied on the site. By 'processed' I mean it will be mixed up with a cementitious material—basically solidified—and put back in the hole that it came out of. By that time it is immobile and cannot leach. It is regarded by all of the authorities as safe.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: What volume of the two types of waste are we looking at?

Mr Bailey : As to the relative volumes, I have forgotten. I could take that on notice and let you know. The total volume of excavated material was around 35,000 tonnes. I am not sure if that has changed, but it will not be any more than that. It may be a bit less.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thank you. If you could take that on notice, that would be great. In terms of the process of transportation and the use of the barge, you already have a contractor in place who will undertake the barge work, or is that part of—

Mr Bailey : That is all part of the tendered contract.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: In terms of safety precautions and environmental precautions in that transportation of waste, I assume it has been through necessary environmental approvals to make those shipments?

Mr Bailey : It has. We have adopted the New South Wales environmental standards, and, although we are not bound by them, we have in fact bound ourselves to the processes and the independent auditing system that New South Wales applies to sites like this. It requires an independent auditor to sign off on all aspects of the process to ensure that it is safe and does not harm human health. In addition to that, we have our own external consultant who works in this field as a sort of crosscheck on both the contractor and the auditing work.

I guess the key thing for us is that we do not want to come back—this is a once and for all, and we do not want to be here in five years' time because we missed a bit. In addition to that we have occupational health and safety people who specialise in air quality and those sorts of things: we have a range of consultants who monitor the pattern of air movements around a site and dust movements and suppression methods and noise and so on. So we have covered all those bases to the extent that the New South Wales environmental agency believe that we are a model for them.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Back on the planning front, just remind me of when the long-term plan for the site was finalised and of the pathway forward you see once his contract for remediation is let and that process is underway. How then might you consider updating, revising or pursuing the long-term plan for the site?

Mr Bailey : Are you asking that as a question on notice?

Senator BIRMINGHAM: If you are able to give a quick snapshot now, that would be great. But if you need to give more detail on notice—

Mr Bailey : I would prefer to give you the detail, but my recollection is that it was signed off by the minister in 2009. As for the other detail you are asking for in that question, I would rather come back to you.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thanks, Mr Bailey.