17 Remaining Privately Owned Lots In Wittenoom To Be Compulsorily Acquired

17 Remaining Privately Owned Lots In Wittenoom To Be Compulsorily Acquired

Western Australia Minister for Lands Ben Wyatt

McGowan Government To Finalise Closure Of Wittenoom

Victor P Taffa

  • Asbestos mining occurred in the Wittenoom area from the 1930’s until 1966
  • Approximately 3 Million tonnes of asbestos tailings remain in Wittenoom Gorge
  • In 2007, Wittenoom was formally de-gazetted and ceased to be a recognised town
  • Former town resides in the largest contaminated site in the southern hemisphere

State Government has today announced plans to finalise the closure of the former asbestos mining town, Wittenoom by creating specific legislation to enable the compulsory acquisition of the remaining 17 privately owned lots in the former townsite.

“Story of Wittenoom is as well-known as it is tragic. 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.” Minister for Lands Ben Wyatt said.

“To date, more than 2,000 workers and residents of Wittenoom have died from asbestos-related diseases and the area is the largest contaminated site in the southern hemisphere.”

Introduction of the Wittenoom Closure Bill 2019 is a significant step in resolving this longstanding issue and ending one of the saddest chapters in Western Australian history.

Since the townsite was de-gazetted in 2007, voluntary acquisition of properties by the State has been largely successful, with only 5 landowners, 3 of whom still reside in the former townsite, remaining.

Wittenoom Asbestos Management Area covers an area of approximately 46,840 ha of land and includes the former townsite, Wittenoom Gorge and Joffre Floodplain. This entire area has been classified as a contaminated site under the Contaminated Sites Act 2003.

Currently under the Land Administration Act 1997, the State can only compulsory acquire property for the purposes of public works. The drafting of this specific legislation will address the ongoing public health issue in Wittenoom by allowing the State to compulsory acquire the remaining freehold properties in the former townsite.

Signage warning of the risks in the Wittenoom Asbestos Management Area is located on the public roads into the area, within the former townsite and in Wittenoom Gorge. Information for travellers warning of the risks in travelling to the former townsite has been provided to visitor centres and roadhouses near the area.