In a brewing conflict concerning operations at the Beadon Creek port facility in Onslow, tensions have flared between Onslow Marine Support Base and the Shire of Ashburton. The saga began in September 2023 when OMSB secured a prescribed premise licence from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation. The licence, intended for logistics activities tied to oil and gas decommissioning operations at its Onslow facility, came with stringent regulatory conditions enforced by State agencies. However, tensions escalated in December 2023 when the Shire of Ashburton issued a directive to OMSB, demanding the cessation of what it alleged to be excavation and construction activities at the Beadon Creek port facility. The shire alleged planning approvals under its local planning scheme were needed, and had not been sought. Responding to the directive, OMSB challenged the shire’s decision through an application to the State Administrative Tribunal, with an initial Directions hearing held later that month. In light of the ongoing dispute, OMSB took measures to ensure compliance with existing planning approvals, including the installation of a temporary, sub-surface liner to prevent potential contamination risks during project activities. Now, at a special council meeting on February 6, the shire revealed it was speaking to solicitors on possible legal action against OMSB. “The shire has always been supportive of the DoT and OMSB’s port operations at Beadon Creek Boat Harbour, and of Chevron Australia’s contribution to the shire and the Pilbara,” the agenda said. “Critically however, the shire’s support for these activities has never obviated the need for the relevant parties to apply for, obtain and comply with all necessary approvals, from the shire and other relevant decision-making bodies.” OMSB managing director Andrew Natta expressed disappointment with the shire’s conduct, labelling the decision to convene a special council meeting on February 6 and disclose details on matters under consideration by SAT as “completely inappropriate”. “The shire’s conduct is inappropriate and is well beyond what we would expect of a local government enforcing planning legislation,” Mr Natta said. “To date, the shire has approached a range of third parties and made a range of representations in relation to OMSB that are not based in fact and have the potential to impact our reputation and commercial agreements,” Mr Natta said. Throughout the dispute, OMSB maintained that its operations at the port facility were compliant with regulations. The company emphasised that the Prescribed Premise licence obtained was not intended for the establishment of a waste depot or scrap recovery facility, contrary to assertions made by the shire. A person found guilty of an offence under the Planning and Development Act 2005 is typically liable for a fine of up to $200,000 and a further fine of up to $25,000 for each day that the offence continues. However, under the Sentencing Act 1995, a body corporate may be liable for a fine of up to five times the maximum amount that could be imposed on an individual, meaning a company found guilty of an offence may be fined up to $1,000,000 and up to $125,000 per day for each day the offence continues.