A nuclear waste dump proposed for Muckaty Station will never be accepted because it is “poison” to the land, a court has heard on the first day of a long-awaited legal challenge to the site’s validity.
A case brought by some elders who say they did not consent to the proposed nuclear waste facility started today with claims that the process used to select Muckaty, 110km north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, has been so legally flawed that the decision should be declared invalid.
Ron Merkel QC, representing Mark Lane Jangala and other opponents of the waste dump, told the Federal Court in Melbourne that the case has “literally torn the Muckaty community apart.”
Judge Tony North asked whether any other site would be considered culturally or spiritually acceptable to Mr Merkel’s clients, but Mr Merkel said the case would have been dropped by now if there was any realistic alternative to Muckaty.
“Everything has been explored,” he said, adding that the prospect of a nuclear waste dump was inconsistent with a duty owed to ancestors to care for the land, and nuclear waste was akin to introducing “poison” to the soil.
Muckaty Station was chosen by the Howard government in 2007 after being volunteered by the Northern Land Council, in a deal that was estimated to deliver the NLC $11 million and the Northern Territory government an initial $10m plus about $2m a year from other governments once the facility was operational.
The hearing is due to travel to Tennant Creek and Darwin as well as touring the proposed site, with court personnel already undertaking a reconnaissance trip to see areas of the station recommended by the dump opponents.
In a scathing criticism at the start of today’s hearing, Justice North said this trip had been a waste of money because the court staff could not get into the suggested sites for reasons which remained unclear.
“This is an enormous waste of public resources for which it seems the applicants are responsible,” he said.
“To have been sent off on that wild goose chase ... was quite irresponsible on the part of the applicants.
“I can’t let that go without some explanation being given.”
The hearing continues.