Senator Rex Patrick said his recent visit to Wudinna was a “fact finding mission” relating to the proposed Iron Road Central Eyre project.
The Centre Alliance Senator for South Australia visited the town this month where he met with mayor Eleanor Scholz and spoke to locals regarding the project.
He said the trip was beneficial to gain a better understanding of the proposal.
“I had seen it mentioned in Infrastructure Australia’s priority list and thought it was proper to go look at the project, see what’s involved and any opposition to it,” he said.
“I had known of the project through the priority list, but not known much about it and so I learnt a substantial amount.
“I saw the site where the mine would be located and had a look at the surrounding area, got a feel from locals on the impact they think it may have and any issues that may arise should the project go ahead.”
Wudinna mayor Eleanor Scholz said it was a good opportunity for Mr Patrick to get a clearer understanding of the project.
“His trip was mainly focused on getting an overview of the Iron Road project, and getting a better understanding of the size and scope of the project,” she said.
“He also took the opportunity to get an overview of the district.”
Mr Patrick said from what he could gather there appeared to be more positives than negatives to come out of the Iron Road project.
He said he did not receive too many negative responses, either in person or through social media, but admitted he would need to speak to a wider group of people to make sure all major concerns could be addressed.
“My preliminary view is that while some are objecting to this, overall I think the community would come out positively, and we must recognise that in any society people are entitled to have a job and it is important to look at growth,” Mr Patrick said.
“I spoke to a farmer on land adjacent to the site and they were of the view that it’s disruptive, but felt they would be compensated and get on with life – they were pragmatic but not necessarily jumping for joy.
“Concerns expressed in submissions appear to have been addressed by the company, but for issues not addressed I’m happy to talk to the company to make sure people are listened to, and remedies found.”
Mr Patrick highlighted that as with the proposal for a radioactive waste site near Kimba and oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, there had to be a balance found between the benefits and potential repercussions.
He said pulling people back into the region would be helpful.
“As farms consolidate and technology removes the need for certain workers, the number of people working the land decreases, the population declines and there’s a loss of government services that flow from that.”
Mr Patrick said he would speak to ministers relating to the next step of the project.
“In terms of what’s the stopper at this point in time, proponents appear to require some interested parties and what could make them become interested is if the government backs the project,” he said.
“At the moment, the plan as far as I can gather is a commercial proposition with no funding allocated to it, so I could speak to [Minister for Regional Services] Bridget McKenzie, who looks after regional development, and [Minister for Resources] Matt Canavan, to see if it can be moved along.”