State Government to close down Wittenoom

Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
VideoA permanent memorial to those who died of asbestos related illnesses at Wittenoom has been unveiled to families and friends they left behind.

The last three residents of Wittenoom will be kicked out and the town shut under legislation to be introduced in State Parliament today.

Lands Minister Ben Wyatt will introduce the Wittenoom Closure Bill 2019 to enable compulsory acquisition of the remaining 17 privately owned lots in the condemned former asbestos town. It is hoped a settlement can be reached with the residents rather than forced eviction.

He said the State could not in good conscience allow residents and tourists to use the area any longer.

“While it will always remain as one of this State’s darkest periods, we need to accept the reality of the situation and find a way forward,” he said.

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“To date, more than 2000 workers and residents of Wittenoom have died from asbestos-related diseases and the area is the largest contaminated site in the southern hemisphere.

“While the area is one of natural beauty it is tragically also deadly, and even if the State committed billions of dollars to a clean-up project it is virtually impossible that the area will ever be safe for human habitation.”

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The mine was closed in 1966 and town de-gazetted in 2007 as the death toll from blue asbestos-related diseases attributable to Wittenoom climbed into the thousands.

About three million tonnes of cancer-causing asbestos tailings remain in Wittenoom Gorge and littered throughout the surrounding area.

Voluntary acquisition of properties by the State has seen all bar five landowners give up their properties to date.

Compulsory acquisition laws floated in 2016 under the former State Government were met with resistance from the remaining residents, who said they had little interest in leaving.

Peter Heyward told The West Australian in January 2017 he would consider leaving for the right money, but was not holding his breath.

“I can’t actually find anywhere else that’s as nice and that compares with it,” he said.

Fellow resident Mario Hartmann vowed to fight compulsory acquisition at the time if compensation was not good enough.

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