White Bay residents have called on the New South Wales Environment Minister for the first time about their air and noise pollution concerns from the White Bay Cruise Terminal.
Residents met Rob Stokes in a meeting convened by Balmain MP Jamie Parker on May 27. A representative from the Environmental Protection Authority was also present.
Balmain resident Valerie Sundquist said the meeting was an important step forward in engaging the minister directly about health and amenity issues.
“He allowed us the time to present our case and our concerns, primarily the health impacts,” Ms Sundquist said.
Health concerns include the use of sulfur-rich fuel used by cruise ships which is burnt and discharged into the air and noise coming from the ship’s engines during power generation.
Up to 75% of cruise ships are already exceeding the noise levels permitted by Sydney Ports, according to a resolution passed at the last public meeting.
Former Leichhardt councillor John Stamolos said the minister should urgently address the health impacts reported by the community, especially as the peak cruise season approaches.
“We’re having many instances where the incidents of residents getting unwell and getting sick is increasing, and at a substantial rate, and that’s after the first season,’’ Cr Stamolos said.
“I’m concerned that we will have the start of chronic illness because we now know that people are highly susceptible to the pollution . . . and disturbed by the noise.’’
Mr Stokes said the meeting was “extremely helpful” in helping him understand the health concerns of the community.
“I appreciate them taking the time to see me and understand that they also had meetings with the relevant Government authorities.’’
However, Mr Parker said if the minister wanted to improve air quality, he should turn his attention towards closing loopholes in the standards of fuel used by cruise ships coming into Australia.
“The Australian standard by far of any comparable international standard, like the United States and Europe, is up to 10 times lower in terms of emission quality,’’ Mr Parker said.
“A ship in America 200 nautical miles out from the port will have to change their fuel to a lower sulfur fuel in order to be allowed to dock.
‘’In Australia, we’re so behind that our standards allow these dirty polluting ships to dock in Australia without being inhibited by any type of [proper] air quality standard.’’
Mr Stokes said the Government is reviewing all measures to do with air and noise quality measures, with a special focus on White Bay. He has also approached the Federal Government about modifying national standards.
Readings for both sulphur dioxide and particular matter were below the allowable limits set by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Environmental Protection Authority results in December last year said.
However, the results were criticised by residents in the last public meeting for not adhering to World Health Organisation guidelines on pollution limits and monitoring.
A spokesperson from the authority said they acknowledge community concern and “will continue to investigate options for mitigating air emissions from cruise ships.”