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Industry and Synergies

Regulatory Governance
KIC4: Dimensions of Industrial Symbiosis

Buffer Zone

Buffer zones surrounding industrial areas are established primarily to ensure that nearby residential communities are not adversely impacted by health and amenity issues that can be attributed to industrial emissions.

There is another, yet less understood, reason for buffer zones. They also protect existing industry from inappropriate land use (usually residential homes, schools etc) encroachment toward the encircled industrial area.

The Western Trade Coast is surrounded by a world-class buffer zone, but there have been pressures in the past to reduce it in specific areas to ‘accommodate’ residential housing. In more recent times, the pressure from residential property developers has increased pressure on land use decision makers to approve buffer reductions in favour of housing. KIC considers the buffer zone is afforded only weak protection by the existing definitions and controls, and it needs to be strengthened.

Protection of the industrial buffer zone is KIC’s number one key strategic issue.

What is a Buffer Zone?

Buffer zones create a geographical distance between industry and residential communities, over which emissions are diluted. These emissions could be tall stack gaseous emissions, or dust, light spillage, noise, vibration, the cumulative societal risks associated with major (catastrophic) incidents, or any combination of these factors.

Many of the industries such as those in the Western Trade Coast routinely store and use large quantities of very dangerous chemicals. Many have emissions that are an integral part of their chemical processes. There is no option for these industries to stop emitting.

If the State wants to promote a sustainable heavy industrial area into the future, it needs to be surrounded by an immovable buffer zone, one that is not subject to pressures from residential property developers for new housing estates.

The land within a buffer zone, between the heavy industry core and the periphery where the residential community land begins need not be doomed to be quarantined for poor land use options, as put about by those who would benefit from this land rezoned for housing. It is valuable land and suitable for light or special industrial uses, or commercial uses. It is where support industries can be located, and these industries create large numbers of jobs for the surrounding communities.

“If the State wants to promote a sustainable heavy industrial area into the future, it needs to be surrounded by an immovable buffer zone, one that is not subject to pressures from residential property developers for new housing estates.”

“There has been a major focus on this issue over the last several years, with increasing pressure for sensitive land uses encroachment to the north, east and south of the WTC.”

Importance

Industrial buffer zones are considered by KIC to be essential pieces of State infrastructure, and they need to be protected in just the same way that major freight highways are protected from inappropriate land use encroachment.

Industry within the Western Trade Coast is responsible for pumping around $16bn into the State economy annually, and for the direct and indirect employment of around 30,000 workers. Existing industrial suburbs (the industrial core in particular) and essentially full, or are close to it. As new industrial land is brought to market, it will be located closer to the periphery of the buffer zone. If incoming industry has concerns about possible future urban encroachment of the buffer zone, it would be understandable if that industry decided to locate elsewhere.

Locating heavy industry in a well-buffered core is good for that cluster. Locating secondary industries between the heavy core and the urban areas is good for everyone, including the State’s economic health.

Strategic industrial areas within the State are afforded a high level of protection via planning controls that designate an area as an ‘Improvement Plan’ area or even better as a ‘Special Control Area’ The WTC is not yet afforded either of these levels of formal protection, but KIC has formally requested the latter control be implemented.

History

The concept of a buffer around industry has been integral to the Kwinana Industrial Area since it was formed in the 1950s.

The history of the buffer zone is that it was originally set up to place distance between sulphur dioxide (SO2) emitting industries and residential communities. This was a successful approach, but over time many things changed. The regulatory environment has become much less tolerant of historic emission levels, industry emits less, cumulative and societal risk is better understood, the industrial core is expanding, community tolerance to emissions like dust or noise has diminished.

In other words, the reason for the buffer has changed, but that has not changed the need for the buffer alignment to remain the same.

Previous governments have tried (and failed) to protect the buffer zone through the implementation of a law, to legislate the location of the buffer to protect industry. This process, despite the unanimous support from government departments and trading enterprises to enshrine the buffer zone on its historical alignment, was severely impacted by the interventions of property developers seeking to diminish the buffer in favour of their residential property development plans.

Local government intentions to the north and south have also proven to be problematic for the stability of the buffer zone.

Numerous studies, political posturing and property developer influencing have seen the buffer zone remain somewhat unstable in three important areas – to the north, to the south and to the eastern centre.

To stop the merry-go-round and uncertainty, KIC has embarked on its second attempt to have the land-use decision makers adopt a Special Control Area over the WTC. At the end of the day this action has substantial departmental and agency support, and if achieved, will finally put an end to the uncertainty.

KIC’s view is that the Industry Protection Area (also known as the buffer zone) should be at the very least protected under the Metropolitan Region Scheme (MRS) as a Special Control Area. Implementation of a Special Control Area will provide the necessary certainty to industry, to the government regulators, their statutory and transport planners, and to the community.

 

KIC believes that protection from residential development pressure through preservation of its buffer zone is critical to the KIA’s ongoing success. The buffer zone was established to protect the community from industry activities – as well as industry from the community. It is KIC’s position that without the extensive buffer, the KIA could not have grown to become what it is – the State’s premier industrial area. However, as detailed further on p32, protection of the buffer has proven an ongoing challenge for KIC.

KIC’s view is that the buffer zone should be protected under an Environmental Planning Policy (EPP) and a State Planning Policy (SPP). Protection under these policy statements would enable KIC to achieve its goals and to plan for a long-term future in the KIA.

The whole history, which represents a fascinating read to those with an interest, is contained in the KIC’s Special Control Area Metropolitan Area Scheme Amendment application.  The document is located in the KIC library below:

Western Trade Coast and Buffer Proposed Amendment to Metropolitan Region Scheme

Maps

Three maps of the WTC are shown here to assist with contextualising and visualising the buffer zone.  From left to right; 

  • The WTC area lies within the buffer zone, and is shown as the variously coloured blocks adjacent to the maritime coast.  There are some 6,000ha of land contained within the buffer zone, and three local governments have municipal governance control over the area.  In green is the City of Cockburn, in purple is the City of Kwinana, and in orange is the City of Rockingham. 
  • In the centre, the WTC shown in blue gives a spatial context to where the industrial area is located within the greater Perth area.  It can be seen that it is located on the coast south of Fremantle and east of Garden Island. 
  • To the right is a map depicting the several ‘industrial suburbs’ that combine to makeup the WTC 

WTC Precincts Govt Jurisdiction

click here for a high resolution copy

WTC Map in relation to the Perth Metro Area

WTC Precinct Plan

click here for a high resolution copy

Threats

There are always threats to the stability of buffer zones, everywhere. The important thing to recognise is that it is the ability of the formal planning controls put in place to protect the buffer, or lack of, that empowers the threat.

What is the outcome of the threat? Well that relates to how industry responds to the lack of buffer integrity. Weak buffer translates into industry uncertainty, which in turn can translate into deferred industrial expansion or development.

The actual threat is that of inappropriate land use encroachment.

So where does the threat originate from? It comes from business agendas from both the private and public sectors. Business agendas translate into influence, and influence can be created through various means. The business agenda could be a residential property developer seeing an eye for a profit by seeking to insert residential development within the buffer zone. Or it could be a local government wanting to impose a different zoning within the buffer zone that will facilitate incompatible land uses like apartment buildings or residential housing. The list goes on, and every industrial area feels these sorts of pressures in some areas from time to time.

What removes the threat? Only one thing removes the threat, controls, whether statutory of legislative, that clearly designate where the line of the buffer zone is, and which prohibits vested interest parties from attempting to change it. Simple? It actually is.

Only one thing removes the threat, controls, whether statutory of legislative, that clearly designate where the line of the buffer zone is, and which prohibits vested interest parties from attempting to change it.

Special Control Area

The ongoing drive to get the WTC industrial buffer zone protected from the threat of residential property development still, after 20 years of effort, continues to frustrate industry. The Western Australian Planning Commission finally considered the KIC’s Metropolitan Scheme Amendment to create a Special Control Area over the Western Trade Coast in 2019, and rejected it. The Application was submitted in 2014.

Industry is extremely frustrated and disappointed that the Application was refused. The reasons for the refusal were that the existing planning controls and mechanisms are adequate (which they plainly are not), and that “on the balance of opinion” the refusal was warranted.

This view was formed despite the fact that seven government departments, trading enterprises, and a local government provided their conditional support for the Application proceeding to the fully public, transparent process industry was seeking. Only two of those bodies consulted were recorded as not in support, and they were local governments. Clearly the “balance of opinion” was for the application to proceed.

In a way that outcome enabled KIC to rework the Application, to modernise it to take into account of new aspects including the emergence of Lithium Valley, the (likely) new port in Kwinana, and the now foreseeable lack of available industrial land. Taken together, these factors represent a major change in the basis for the Application.

KIC reviewed the original Application, taking into consideration these factors, and resubmitted it in mid-2019. The new MRS Amendment process has commenced.

Industry is extremely frustrated and disappointed that the Application was refused. The reasons for the refusal were that the existing planning controls and mechanisms are adequate (which they plainly are not), and that “on the balance of opinion” the refusal was warranted.

Contact Us

PO Box 649
Kwinana WA 6966

Tel: (08) 9419 1855

Email: admin@kic.org.au

Contact Us

PO Box 649
Kwinana WA 6966

Tel: (08) 9419 1855

Email: admin@kic.org.au