Port Hedland iron ore ship
More than a million tonnes of Iron ore is exported from Port Hedland each day. Image: Bahnfrend, Wikimedia Commons
  • The voluntary buyback will be eligible for residents in dust-affected areas
  • A new levy will fund the scheme
  • Estimated the buyback will affect up to 400 homes

Amid many reports about the long-term health impact of iron ore dust on residents, the Western Government last year announced a voluntary buyback for affected properties in Port Hedland’s West End.

Though this will include residential properties, it has been recently confirmed it will not include commercial property.

This is according to the ABC, who recently questioned the Minister for WA Regional Development, Allanah MacTieran, about the exclusion of the commercial properties for the $200 million scheme.

“We don’t believe that there is a case for extending the scheme,” Ms MacTiernan told the ABC.

This comes after the rezoning of the West End area of Port Hedland which resulted in a redesignation from residential to commercial and light industrial in the area therefore preventing new residential premises from being built.

Commercial landlords – many of whom already pay high maintenance costs as a result of the high levels of dust – have been disappointed by the Minister’s decision.

The residential buyback scheme

Though economically vital, the more than a million tonnes of Iron Ore exported daily from Port Hedland – which is currently Australia’s top export – has been responsible for much dust pollution in the port town

Since 2019, the WA government has been in consultation with stakeholders such as residents, industry and the Pilbara Ports Authority regarding how to tackle the issue.

A levy – the Port Hedland Voluntary Buy-Back Scheme port charge or PHVBS – will begin on March 1st 2021 on vessels entering and exiting the Port for the purposes of exporting Iron ore.  The levy rate is $6,725 per entry or exit movement therefore the levy will effectively cost $13,450 per shipment.

The levy will be implemented by the Pilbara Ports Authority and is expected the buyback will include approximately 400 houses in Port Hedland’s West End.

Based on an in-principle agreement announced by the WA government from mid-2020, eligible residents will have their compensation calculated by the market value for the property as of August 6, 2019 with a premium of 35 per cent. For verifiable transactions costs up too another $20,000 can be added to the total compensation package.

At the time, Minister Alannah MacTiernan remarked that “The Port Hedland Voluntary Buy-back Scheme is designed to provide options to property owners in the West End whose land is subject to a rezoning to limit residential use in the West End,”

“The McGowan Government has developed this voluntary buy-back option through an extensive consultation process that was led by independent consultant Ross Love last year.”

However, Shipping Australia’s Chief Executive, Melwyn Noronha, is disappointed that the shipping industry will be taking the brunt of the levy.

In an interview with the ABC he argued that the Port Authority itself is responsible for the air pollution itself.   He argues that airtight procedures used when handling means the pollution is caused when the Port Authority loads the Iron Ore itself.

He adds,” It seems that the ship is just an easy target for this breathtakingly outrageous charge…they’ve looked for the point of least resistance, they are all international ships that come here, so they look for the easy source of that income.”

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