What Turnbull's $55m pledge means for Oakey residents

UPDATE: The Federal Government's $55 million funding package to support residents in towns with contaminated groundwater supplies from Defence bases includes the provision for more blood tests and mental health services.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this morning announced the government was investigating the potential human health, environment and ecological impacts of PFOA and PFOS in up to 18 towns across the country.

That includes Oakey whose residents this morning rallied outside the Oakey Army Aviation Centre gates to have their calls for support, and answers heard.

In a statement, Mr Turnbull said: "The Turnbull Coalition will invest $55 million from the existing Defence budget to manage, contain and remediate perfluorinated compounds contamination at Defence bases.

"This includes an epidemiological study that will look at potential patterns, causes and health effects in communities exposed to elevated levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)."

He said the package would fund a voluntary blood-testing program for residents in existing investigation areas, and establish dedicated mental health and counselling services.

A dedicated community liaison officer position would also be funded to "connect residents with these services".

Mr Turnbull is expected to raise the contamination concerns with the Council of Australian Government with a view of forming a "consistent approach to managing potentially contaminated sites".

If elected, Federal Labor said it would commit $21 million towards an action plan to address contamination concerns, and would fund further blood tests and analyse the impacts of the chemicals.

8.10AM: A peaceful march to the gates of the Oakey Army Aviation Centre has delivered an iron-clad agreement that a signed letter will reach the one person residents feel has ignored them for years.

Oakey Training Centre Commandant Colonel Scott Benbow accepted the two-page document from Dr Eric Donaldson who led the march to the base gates this morning.

The letter, signed by the 30 residents at this morning's show of strength, called on the Federal Government and Minister for Defence Marise Payne to visit Oakey to hear concerns of the small number of affected residents.

"We sympathise with the community," Col. Benbow said.

Protesters outside the Oakey Army Aviation Centre.
Protesters outside the Oakey Army Aviation Centre.

"We have people on this base that live and obviously work here.

"We're certainly very interested that there is a good outcome for everybody.

"This letter will go to the Minister, I will guarantee you that."

Oakey resident of 25 years Peter Jones, whose house neighbours the base, and David Jefferis of Berwick Stud hold the sign leading to the base this morning.
Oakey resident of 25 years Peter Jones, whose house neighbours the base, and David Jefferis of Berwick Stud hold the sign leading to the base this morning. Tara Miko

The acceptance followed the 200m march of the residents, with banners, high-visibility vests and hand-written signs towards the base.

Dr Donaldson said the community had been fighting for two years for answers and while the groundwater contamination issues affected only a small number of residents, they deserved to be heard.

He said the march and intense publicity of the issue had been a last resort for the residents, and criticised the manner in which Senator Payne had dealt with their concerns.

"For two years we have been negotiating and getting nowhere," he said.

"The Minister of Defence either seems unable to make a decision or is not interested.

"Either case, it's not what you would expect from the Minister of Defence."

Oakey residents are demanding a meeting with the Minister for Defence.
Oakey residents are demanding a meeting with the Minister for Defence.

His comments preceded a reported $55 million commitment from the Federal Government to further study the impacts of PFOA and PFOS around the country.

While not knowing the particulars, Dr Donaldson said any measures announced had to address the financial impact on livelihoods of residents.

"The problem that these people have is that their livelihoods have been impacted," he said.

"Their future is in doubt because of this.

"If they can't use their property or their water, that's the immediate problem for them."

A small crowd marshalls outside the Oakey Army Aviation Centre. Photo Tara Miko
A small crowd marshalls outside the Oakey Army Aviation Centre. Photo Tara Miko Tara Miko

Dr Donaldson's rental property on Corfe Rd neighbours the army base and is directly impacted by the contamination.

He said while the issue was groundwater and not town water supplies, had he known about he chemicals leaching into the ground, he would not have bought the property.

"It's not the whole town of Oakey," he said.

"Oakey is a wonderful place to live.

"There's a small area that has been contaminated and that is the area that are suffering, some of them greatly.

"I've been here since the early 1970s when the army came up here.

"I would not, had I known what I know now, I would not have bought that property there (on Corfe Rd)."

Nick Xenophon Team candidate for Groom Josie Townsend, and party's senate leader Suzanne Grant, backed the residents this morning.

Ms Townsend welcomed news the Federal Government would commit $55m to the groundwater contamination issue across the country, including funding more blood tests.

But she said more needed to be done for Oakey.

"It's just wrong that Defence hasn't actually stepped up," Ms Townsend said.

"Ongoing, as well as fixing this problem, we need to mend the reputation that has been marred by this problem as well.

"Oakey deserves better."

EARLIER: Oakey residents are this morning protesting outside the Army Aviation Centre to deliver a signed letter to the Defence Department.

It marks the first escalation of residents concerned about possible groundwater contamination from toxic firefighting chemicals used at the base for decades.

Organisers of this morning's rally hope the public show of support for their cause will send a message to the Federal Government which some residents claim has ignored its responsibility in cleaning up, or compensating affected landholders.


The impact on groundwater supplies has become a highly politicised issue in recent weeks after residents secured delegations with candidates in the looming Federal election.

Residents have met with a raft of political hopefuls recently, including a delegation with Labor senators and the ALP's Groom candidate Bronwyn Herbertson who on Monday pledged to overhaul the way the Department of Defence liaises with effected residents, and fund an additional 10,000 voluntary blood tests.

Topics:  oakey oakey contaminated water toowoomba

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Kilcoy gets a run at history

HONOURED: Somerset's Matthew Heck will carry the Queens Baton through Kilcoy next Tuesday.

Queen's Baton Relay celebrations to hit town next week.

Rain gives a boost to prices

ON THE RISE: Recent rain in the state is driving demand for cattle.

Cattle prices recover from last year's fall

Have you seen the car connected to a Laidley robbery?

Police are appealing for information on a break and enter of the QN Hotel in Laidley.

If you know anything contact police or Crime Stoppers.

Local Partners