Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan visited Hawker and Kimba to announce the injection of $4 million worth of community grants into the Grey electorate.
The grants rewarded 45 different community projects near Wallerberdina Station and Kimba as part of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility Community Benefit Program.
Some of the rewarded projects include $500,000 to upgrade mobile phone coverage between Hawker and Leigh Creek, over $220,000 for the Flinders Ranges Council to construct a Hawker Gymnasium and Pool Administration Centre, and almost $230,000 to renovate local churches.
Projects in Quorn also benefitted from the community program, with the Quorn Men’s Shed set to receive $12,500 to install rainwater tanks and dust extractors.
Multiple sporting organisations in the Flinders Ranges area were supported, including $190,000 invested into the Hawker Community Sports Centre upgrade.
Mr Canavan said he is really happy with the quality of projects that were put forward.
“We realise it’s a bit of heartache for communities to go through this process, so it’s a bit of goodwill from the Commonwealth government to put aside $2m a year while this process is running to invest in the communities,” he said.
“We’re confident that these give a great degree of community benefit.”
Three sites – two in Kimba and one in Wallerberdina Station – have been volunteered for the proposed national radioactive waste management facility.
Mr Canavan informed residents of Hawker and Kimba that a postal ballot conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission would commence on August 20 to measure the community support for the three sites.
Mr Canavan vowed the facility would not go ahead without community approval, but hopes to win local support.
“There are of course risks that must be managed with waste of this type, but there’s a waste management process which we’re very good at, and it’s absolutely safe,” he said.
“It will bring a new, and in my view, fascinating industry to rural South Australia.
“The nuclear industry is one that saves lives. It’s an incredibly important and exciting area of research.”
The facility would create about 15 jobs, which Mr Canavan described as a “good shot in the arm” for towns like Hawker and Kimba.
Mr Canavan said there would be flow-on benefits if the project does go ahead, with $10m to be invested into infrastructure surrounding the site, including roads and mobile phone access.
Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey threw his support behind the radioactive waste management industry.
“I’m on record as the only member of parliament who tried to nominate his own farm (to host the facility) because I’ve been to Europe and seen those facilities,” he said.
“I spent time in France, Sweden and Finland and it’s a very well-regulated industry and I have no fear.”
Mr Canavan held discussions with the consultative committees from the two towns, as well as the Aboriginal community in Hawker during his visit.
Mr Canavan said meeting the committees gave him the chance to receive feedback from a mix of people that both support and oppose the project.