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  • Writer's pictureEyre Peninsula EPA

Recent open letter drafted by the EPEPA to Federal Minister for Industry and Science - Hon. Ed Husic


Dear Hon Ed Husic,

As a resident of Eyre Peninsula, I’m writing to you with extreme concern regarding the space industry activity of Southern Launch and ATSpace at Whalers Way, south of Port Lincoln.  I also call into question the decision-making responsibility of your delegate, the Australian Space Agency (ASA).

 

The ASA’s legislative act – Space Launch and Returns – stipulates the criteria for the granting of a Launch Facility license. It includes having an environmental management plan and an emergency management plan. By agreeing to the concept of a ‘Test Launch Campaign’ at Whalers Way, the ASA, on behalf of yourself, has made unlawful decisions which will be challenged by the courts.

 

Southern Launch was erroneously granted a launch facility license in 2019. They did not, and still do not, have an acceptable environmental management plan. The planning consent granted by the South Australian Planning Commission did not include any considerations for such. Southern Launch’s subsequent activities have resulted in the introduction of weed species and the unlawful clearing of habitat in Whalers Way (mulching after damage to vegetation from fire and widening of roads), as well as the disruption of breeding periods of protected bird species.

 

Southern Launch has also unlawfully been acting without an appropriate emergency management plan. Seven launches have been attempted without an acceptable Bushfire Emergency Management (BEM) plan. Despite persistent requests to ALL areas of government and the company itself, release of a bushfire management plan to the public was repeatedly refused.


A BEM plan, dated January 2023, has finally been released. This suggests NO active plan in place for the previous seven attempts. Furthermore, comparing the requirements within this plan to the activities of Southern Launch preceding it is quite concerning:

 

“Minimum vegetation management zone…around the launch sites will be 60m.”                                                    

“Requirement for all staff, contractors and visitors to undertake a specific site induction identifying bushfire risk considerations and actions “

 

Surrounding vegetation is within 10 meters adjacent to the launch pad. The failed launch and subsequent bushfire on September 16 2021 was evidence of this. The ASA investigated, however failed to implement restrictions before giving further launch approvals. Journalists, dignitaries and even children attended launches, scheduled for December 2022 in the height of bushfire season, without any specific site induction regarding bushfire consideration. Seven launches were attempted in these conditions! Each launch has failed – fire, gas leaks, electrical faults. Each launch has placed citizens at unmitigated risk.

 

Sufficient rigour by the Australian Space Agency should have prevented this unlawful launch activity. Instead it has put yourself at risk of legal action. I am amongst many people considering initiating a class action, considering the unacceptable level of risk we have been subjected to by Southern Launch

 

As such, I ask you to consider the two following request as a matter of urgency.

1.  Review the decision-making policies of the Australian Space Agency to act in the name of the Minister for Space.

2.  Refuse to renew the Launch Facility License for the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex – due to expire in April 2024.


Thank you for your consideration,



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