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Port Hedland dust, health concerns forces Government to move on capping population

Port Hedland dust, health concerns forces Government to move on capping population

The population around one of the world’s largest bulk-handling ports will be capped amid concerns about the public health impact of dust it creates.

Western Australia’s Pilbara town of Port Hedland, with a population of nearly 14,000, exported 519 million tonnes of commodities in 2017, or up to two million tonnes every day.

There have long been concerns about the public health implications of high levels of dust in the neighbouring residential district known as the West End.

On Monday, the State Government announced its plan to tackle those concerns and conflict between the industrial and residential land uses in the port town.

The Government will block any further residential development and will look to cap, and possibly reduce, the number of permanent residents in dust-affected areas.

Premier Mark McGowan said the district would instead be redeveloped as “a buzzing commercial hub”.

“[The West End is now] going to be very much focused on commercial activities.

“It will mean that Hedland has a secure, long-term future.”

The Government’s long-awaited decision is in line with several recommendations handed down by a 2016 Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce report.

“We endorse the findings of the taskforce,” Mr McGowan said.

Mr McGowan said the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) would now take responsibility for air quality monitoring, which was previously done by industry.

DWER will also commission an independent third-party review and develop a dust management guideline for bulk handling operations at the port.