NSW and Victorian communities release their own clean air plan after years of government inaction

By February 15, 2021Air Pollution, Media releases


Communities across NSW and Victoria are demanding the Berejiklian and Andrews governments combat toxic air pollution and protect people’s health with the release of The People’s Clean Air Action Plan. 

Tired of government inaction, a coalition of community groupsenvironmental lawyers, health professionals and international regulatory experts came together to take the government’s task of reducing air pollution into their own hands. 

The People’s Clean Air Action Plans for NSW and Victoria call for the state governments to reduce the biggest sources of air pollution by: 

  • Increasing air quality monitoring and access to information about air pollution 
  • Reducing coal-fired power station pollution with best practice control standards 
  • Reducing vehicle pollution, with a focus on vehicle pollution hotspots 
  • Phasing out wood-burning heaters 
  • Legislating health-based ambient air quality standards. 

Australia’s air pollution standards do not adequately protect health and lag significantly behind other regions, including the USA, the EU and China.  

Every year our governments delay a clean air strategy, another 4800 people in Australia die as a result of exposure to toxic air pollution, at an annual health cost of $24 billion to the economy. 

Some of our most vulnerable people are hardest hit by air pollution – low-income communities, the elderly, people with chronic diseases, children, pregnant women and unborn babies. 

Coal-fired power stations disproportionately impact the communities living near them, making it one of the most significant environmental justice issues in Australia. 

Bronya Lipski, Lawyer from Environmental Justice Australia who grew up in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley said:  

“The NSW and Victorian governments have dropped the ball on air pollution. Our weak national air pollution standards were due to be updated over a year ago, the clean air strategy for NSW has been in development for six years, and the Victorian government has been sitting on an opportunity to tighten pollution limits for coal-fired power stations for four years. 

“Despite numerous pollution breaches by coal-fired power stations and multiple reports outlining the health and economic costs of toxic air pollution, coal-fired power stations like Vales Point on NSW’s Central Coast Valley and Yallourn in the Latrobe Valley still receive preferential treatment from state and federal governments to pollute our air and make record profits at the expense of people’s health. 

“The NSW and Victorian communities can’t wait any longer while governments drag their feet. Where the government has failed, the people have stepped in. It’s time the NSW and Victorian governments put people before polluters and urgently adopt the recommendations in The People’s Clean Air Action Plans.” 

Hunter Valley GP, Bob Vickers, said: 

“I see patients presenting with serious health issues caused by air pollution from the nearby coal-fired power station, particularly kids with asthma, adults with respiratory diseases and heart disease, and pregnancy complications.”  

“I’m sick and tired of seeing patients with preventable diseases caused by toxic air pollution while the calls for governments and power companies to act are continually ignored. 

“Improving the health of people living near coal-fired power stations should be a priority. I am extremely frustrated to see how our governments took immediate action regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, yet they continue to do nothing on the public health threat of toxic air pollution that kills almost 5,000 Australians every year. 

Our governments could so easily reduce pollution from coal-fired power stations but instead they let power companies make record profits while we breathe in toxic air. 

Sue Wynn, who lives in Mannering Park on NSW’s Central Coast and is the Secretary of the Mannering Park Progress, said:  

“I have lived right on the doorstep of Vales Point Power coal-fired station for 43 years. I am a non-smoker, seldom drink alcohol, take no illicit drugs, eat very healthily, am slim and extremely fit for my 68 years, regularly cycling 20 – 35 km a day or swimming among other strenuous physical activities. 

Yet, I continue to confound my Doctors and specialists as I am suffering the chronic ailments of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder and have recently been diagnosed as being at moderate risk of a heart attack due to a 20-50% blockage of all arteries. I now take two medications and will be on these, possibly in increasing doses, for life. 

Whilst there may be other contributing factors, I would say that the toxic gases and particulate pollution I have been exposed to the 43 years I have lived near this coal-fired power station, may have caused, or are, at the very least, exacerbating, my chronic conditions and will thus shorten my life span. 

I plead with Environment Minister Matt Kean on behalf of all the generations to follow that you rid us of these dangerous pollutants through the Clean Air Strategy promised for over six years. It is your moral obligation and statutory duty to improve the quality of our air and environment when you can. 

I urge you to adopt this excellent plan that would give you a road map to a cleaner brighter future for allThe hard work has been done for you, let’s just get on with it please. 

The coalition of groups who contributed to The People’s Clean Air Action Plan are: 

Asthma AustraliaLung Foundation AustraliaDoctors for the Environment AustraliaHealthy Futures Environment VictoriaNature Conservation Council NSWCommunities for Clean AirFuture Sooner Maribyrnong Truck Action GroupVoices of the Valley. 

Media contact: Matija Sraj, matija.sraj@envirojustice.org.au, 0447 458 336

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