Mayor Mark Jamieson and division nine councillor Steve Robinson were on hand when the first solar panels were lifted into place at the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm, Valdora.
Mayor Mark Jamieson and division nine councillor Steve Robinson were on hand when the first solar panels were lifted into place at the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm, Valdora. Greg Gardner Photography

$50m solar farm site remains closed after asbestos scare

WORK remains stopped on Sunshine Coast Council's $50 million solar farm project at Valdora three weeks after the discovery of asbestos littering the 49ha former cane farm.

The council in 2014 paid $1.65m including GST to purchase the property but first had to pay Gruenenery $2.38m in two equal amounts of $1.19m for the option to buy the land which had previously sold in 2012 for $770,000.

The site was closed three weeks ago after suspicious material was noticed during a site inspection by delegates from the Electrical Trade Union and the CFMEU.

A council spokesman said the clean up of asbestos on the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm site was progressing well and was on-track for completion within two weeks.

"The site is being managed by an approved asbestos company and in consultation with Queensland Workplace Health and Safety,'' he said.

Who will bear the cost of the clean up remains unclear with the spokesman saying only that discussions had started with the builder, the Downer Group, "regarding the project clean up costs”.

Work won't resume lifting the 1.5 tonne solar panels onto the posts that hold them out of the flood water that inundates the site twice annually until the site was authorised by a licensed hygienist as being clear of asbestos.

The unions remain concerned about the way workers employed through a labour hire company are being treated.

CFMEU delegate Tony Kong said the workers had not been informed when the job would resume, were not being paid and remained unsure whether or not they should be pursuing alternative employment.

He said there were concerns those employed through the labour hire company were being paid considerably less than what was contained in the Downer Group employment agreement.

"Using labour hire as permanent workforce was not was intended,'' Mr Kong said.

"Labour hire is meant as supplementary. It's not to be used as permanent work force. It's unjust. Labour hire should be at most 3-5% of a job's workforce, not 50%.”

A Downer spoksman said construction was due to recommence on authorisation by the licensed hygienist.

"Downer will review their labour requirements and schedule them accordingly,'' he said.

Mr Kong said the more asbestos that was found as the hygienist worked through the entire site would lead to further delays as it was progressively cleared.


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