Mayor believes steel plant underestimates social impacts of the project

Council plays hardball with $4 billion steel plant

GLADSTONE Regional Council plans to fight every inch of the way to ensure construction of a $4 billion steel mill doesn't leave the community high and dry.

At its general meeting today, the council discussed the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from Boulder Steel for a steel plant at Mt Larcom.

Councillors agreed the EIS had significantly underestimated the social impacts of the project, including on housing.

The council will make a submission to the State Government in response to the EIS, requesting certain requirements be added to Boulder Steel's submission. Submissions on the EIS are due to Queensland's Coordinator General by February 25.

A report written by the council says the Gladstone Steel Plant Project (GSPP) makes "no commitment towards any significant community infrastructure in its EIS."

Councillors agreed the projects should be required to contribute 1% of its total value towards community infrastructure. GSPP is a $4.4 billion project, so the council is seeking a $44 million contribution towards needs such as housing and roads.

It will be tough for the council to win that battle. It has been disappointed by previous projects in which the government has not conditioned major projects to contribute anywhere near what it hoped for.

Boulder Steel was unable to comment because the EIS process is currently underway.

Every councilor appeared very disappointed by the Boulder Steel EIS.

Cr Karen Porter said it had used outdated data about the community, which was no longer accurate.

Mayor Gail Sellers said the council had learned the hard way that it needed to go hard in EIS processes.

She reiterated the council's view that any decisions about how to spend money contributed social infrastructure should involve the council.

"Who better to do it than the people in the area who were elected and who know what's going on here?" she said.

"We're the ones who can address what's needed for the region."

The mayor spoke of the council's disappointment at social infrastructure contributions from other major projects and said it was necessary be forthright in the submission.

She said the council had had ongoing conversations with Boulder Steel about the project, but not about specific financial amounts.

"I think unfortunately, when you are sitting in the Gladstone region and looking at the projects that have gone before, we know that everything was underestimated (in terms of impact on social infrastructure.)"

Is Gladstone council right to take a tough approach regarding the steel plant?

This poll ended on 20 March 2013.

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