Ombudsman's Report: Brookland Greens Estate - Investigation into methane gas leaks

MEDIA STATEMENT: 15 October 2009

City of Casey Mayor Cr Geoff Ablett has expressed disappointment with some aspects of the Ombudsman’s report tabled in Parliament today titled Brookland Greens Estate – Investigation into methane gas leaks.

The Mayor said that whist the report concluded that there have been failures by a range of government and private bodies, including the Council, relating to the regulation and management of the site, Council noted the thrust of the report in highlighting the failure of the environmental regulator, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), to adequately discharge its regulatory functions. To this extent, therefore, the Council’s decision to join the EPA in the class action had been vindicated.

The Mayor also said that the City of Casey had already commenced its own review of policies and procedures identified in the recommendations contained in the Ombudsman’s report, and that many of these have already been completed.

Cr Ablett said the Council is disappointed in, and rejects, the Ombudsman’s findings in two key areas:

“Council rejects the finding that VCAT was not sufficiently alerted to the explosive risk associated with methane gas. VCAT is an expert panel and one of its members was an industrial chemist. It is disappointed that the Ombudsman could not investigate the merits of the decision made by VCAT. Council did not want VCAT to remove the buffer and allow residential development up to the landfill boundary,” said Cr Ablett

The second area relates to the declaration of the emergency which the City of Casey believes should never have happened.

“The Ombudsman acknowledges the social upheaval that the emergency caused and that these were not fully appreciated. The City of Casey maintains the view that the level of risk has always been at an acceptable level, as validated by the risk assessments conducted by consultants for the EPA after the emergency had already been declared.

“The EPA has conceded that a risk assessment should, in fact, have been conducted before the emergency was declared. Failure by the EPA to do so has resulted in the social disruption that the Ombudsman mentioned”, said Cr Ablett.

The Mayor said that because the management of landfills is a complex and highly specialised area, the Council has always engaged experts, relied on them and followed their advice. It had also relied on the expertise and discharge of regulatory functions by the EPA.

‘The safety of our residents has always been and continues to be Council’s principal priority, and we will continue to support the rebuilding of the community spirit in the Brookland Greens Estate’, said the Mayor.

‘Council has expended considerable funds to mitigate the landfill gas migration, and so we have sought $35.6 million from the State Government to assist in the site’s remediation.

“The City of Casey believes that the residents of Casey should not have to bear the cost that has been caused by a situation that a range of parties have contributed to, many of which are State Government authorities and entities,” said Cr Ablett.