Controversial former waste recycling site up for sale in Helensburgh


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The controversial Helensburgh property operated as a waste material recycling plant for many years by the Blackwell family has been put on the market by its more recent owners, Bingo. With the long-standing family business no longer involved, the property at 159 Walker St, Helensburgh has been up for sale by expressions of interest, a process which closed on Wednesday. There are about 22,000 sq m of industrial land within the boundaries. The land is zoned IN2 light industrial in parts, and E2 environmental protection in others. The real estate advertisement lists the property at 60 hectares. It was bought by Bingo from the Blackwells in 2017 for $4 million. But while Wollongong City Council has previously described the land as being contaminated, it does not feature on the Contaminated Land Record (CLR) for NSW. The Mercury asked Wollongong City Council what kind of contamination was involved, and why it was not on the CLR. Council was not able to respond to these questions on Wednesday, a spokesman said. It was described as contaminated in a planning assessment report over a development proposal for a major waste recycling and resource recovery park there. This was eventually refused by the council in 2017. The site has had a history of mixed results regarding environmental regulation. It has been the subject of multiple investigations or audits by the Environment Protection Authority. In 2011 a Wollongong City Council investigation found the Blackwells recycling business had expanded beyond what was allowed under a 1983 development consent, and that a house, several sheds and a motorbike track had been built without approval. The investigation also found the site had been receiving building waste and that the council was a regular customer – its works division had “regularly delivered waste materials to the site”. But the council voted to rezone the land the following year, allowing the business to continue operating. Bingo, the Sydney-based waste disposal giant started by the Tartak family and chaired by Planet Ark chairman Michael Coleman, bought out the Blackwells’ Helensburgh business and their Kembla Grange-based Wollongong Recycling in 2017. The northern business became Helensburgh Recycling, which was soon afterwards fined $15,000 by the EPA after inspectors saw asphalt unlawfully dumped there on two occasions. The operation was licensed to accept organic waste including wood and soil.

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