Federal government announces $4 million funding program for communities in radioactive waste debate

Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey and Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan.
Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey and Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan.

A new benefit program has been announced for communities at the crux of the radioactive waste facility debate.

The federal government has revealed a $4 million funding program for each of the two communities considering the facility, around Kimba and Wallerberdina Station.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said the new funding is a response to community feedback and reflected the delays in the site selection process.

Consultation on the proposed facility commenced in 2016.

"We recognise that the communities have engaged in debate in good faith and we remain committed to supporting them through the site selection process. This investment will support the communities as well as deliver projects and initiatives that can further diversify the local economies," he said.

"The Flinders Ranges and Kimba are great country places that I have had the pleasure to get to know better through this process.

"We have been listening to the community and we are responding, particularly with respect to investing in services that support the wellbeing of people in these local communities."

A range of projects and initiatives can meet the criteria for funding through the program, including local infrastructure upgrades, services, apprenticeships and mental health initiatives.

The funding is not dependant on the results of the upcoming ballots which will take place in the District Council of Kimba and the Flinders Ranges Council.

An additional $31 million will also be available through a Community Development Package for the community chosen to host the proposed facility.

Radioactive waste is currently spread over more than 100 locations around Australia and the federal government wants to see it consolidated into a single purpose built facility in line with international best practice.

But Australian Conservation Foundation's Dave Sweeney said there is no urgency to move the material and more conversations are needed.

"There is no radioactive waste management crisis in Australia," he said.

"95 per cent of the material that will head to any site in South Australia is currently in secure storage under federal control today, and it will be tomorrow, and it will be for a year and can be for 35 more years.

"The federal regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, has said repeatedly that there's no urgency to move the most severe and the most problematic material which is the intermediate level waste which is currently based at Lucas heights in Sydney."

Voting commences in the District Council of Kimba this week, while the Flinders Ranges Council have confirmed that it will hold a community ballot between November 11 and December 12.