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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1521

Senator BLACK —Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence seen recent media reports relating to the discovery of unexploded ammunition on a residential sub-division at Sunshine Beach in Queensland? Are land developers obliged to inform home or land buyers of the fact that this sub-division and others are located on former World War II firing ranges? Can the Federal Government enforce a temporary halt to development in the area until the land is safety checked and prospective home or land buyers are made aware of the possible existence of live ammunition?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am aware of recent reports that a 250-pound bomb was unearthed at a depth of one metre by the owner of the land in question whilst digging on his property. In accordance with normal practice, an Army demolition team established that the bomb was safe and it was taken to a quarry outside Noosa and there detonated. The area was the site of two major firing ranges at Caloundra, between 1939 and 1945, and Noosa between 1939 and 1959. The existence of the ranges was known to the Queensland Government and local government authorities. Nonetheless, they decided with that knowledge of the existence of the ranges, to offer the properties for urban development. Reducing possible unexploded ordnance hazards to levels consistent with such development is, it will be appreciated, a responsibility well beyond that of the Federal Government. It would be surprising, though, if land developers were unaware of the possible existence of unexploded ordnance at the time the land was zoned for urban purposes.

It is doubtful whether the Federal Government has the authority to enforce a halt to development. The problem goes beyond that in the sense that it is virtually impossible to provide a guarantee that all ammunition in the area of the former ranges is cleared. Recently the Auditor-General reported his concern that the Department of Defence needed to take a closer look at the number of former weapons ranges throughout Australia and the Government is examining that report at the moment. I assure the Senate on behalf of the Minister for Defence that he continues to guarantee that all unexploded ordnance which is reported will be dealt with by expert service personnel in an expeditious and appropriate manner. One wishes that the Queensland Government had demonstrated a similar sense of responsibility in this matter.