By Colin MacGillivray
Lower property values, traffic problems, damage to the environment and noise and air pollution were key points raised by objectors to quarry south of Wallan, at a Mitchell Shire meeting on Monday night.
Mitchell Shire councillors heard directly from objectors and the quarry operator Conundrum Holdings at its community questions and hearings meeting at the Broadford office.
The meeting comes ahead of the council making a decision on a proposed planning permit for the quarry at its ordinary council meeting on Monday night.
Council has previously rejected a planning permit for the quarry in 2016.
Council chief executive Brett Luxford had previously raised concerns about the quarry after a Victorian Panning Authority independent panel recommended its inclusion in the Beveridge North West Precinct Structure Plan.
The quarry, proposed by Kilmore operator Conundrum Holdings, was only added the PSP after it had gone through a community consultation process that did not include a quarry.
Wallan couple James and Skye Forster, who live less than three kilometres from the proposed quarry site, said they had moved to Wallan to avoid the type of heavy-vehicle traffic the quarry would bring.
“One of the major problems we had where we lived was … trucks that were waking us up at 2am, 3am, 4.30am, 5.15am multiple times a week. We basically have PTSD from six years of torture of having our sleep disrupted,” Ms Forster said.
“I’d like council to consider some curfews or limits on when engine brakes can be used and when trucks can sit there idling.”
Mr Forster said the onus to prove industrial sites were breaking permit conditions was often placed on residents.
“If they’re disturbing the neighbours, it’s up to the neighbours to prove that,” he said.
“How do you police the blasts [at the quarry]? Are we all going to be running recorders in our living rooms? Should I be flying drones? How do we monitor that?”
Objector Teena Lee said her husband Bruce McIntyre suffered from a serious respiratory condition that was likely to be affected by airborne dust particles from the quarry.
Mr McIntyre said he saw no positive aspects to the quarry proposal.
“We came here for the amenity of the Wallan area – you’ve got clean air and it’s semi-rural,” he said.
“[This is] about health and wealth. We’ll lose our health, and we’ll lose our bloody wealth. There can’t be one good thing said about the quarry as far as I’m concerned.”
Other residents raised concerns about traffic banking onto the Hume Freeway during peak hours and the impact of the quarry on the local environment.
Andrew Harvey, a civil engineer representing the proprietors of an 11-hectare wedge of land between the Hume Freeway and Northern Highway south of Wallan, said the proposed quarry access road was out of step with other strategic planning in the area.
“The 11-hectare section we are talking about is a gateway site for entry to the Wallan township from the Hume Freeway coming from both the north and the south,” he said.
“Without due consideration of the effects that this proposed access point is going to take on both the Wallan South and Beveridge North East PSPs, we believe that the proposal has the potential to stymie the adjacent development, including our 11 hectares, through the imposition of buffers, the prevention of vital arterial road networks coming from the south and the inappropriate siting of the access location.
“This access location is inconsistent and conflicts with the Northern Highway duplication, which is being advertised concurrently.”
Mr Harvey said the proposed quarry access road had potential to disrupt a link between the planned Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal and the Northern Highway and Hume Freeway.
But Conundrum Holdings quarry project manager Sarah Andrew said it was precisely because of projects like the Northern Highway duplication and the building of the freight terminal that a quarry was necessary.
“You can’t build infrastructure like an interchange, an intermodal or a bypass without material from quarries,” she said.
“I strongly believe as a community we need to meet our social responsibilities with respect to climate and minimising costs for future generations.
“This site will assist by using those basalt resources as close as possible to the end user.
“The quarry can be established and operate in conjunction with the council’s strategic planning aspirations as the [VPA] independent planning panel found.”
Conundrum Holdings managing director Ron Kerr said the group had done all it could to minimise the impact of the quarry on the Wallan community. He said the project would support jobs in the growing region for decades to come.
“North Central Quarry is part of a four-site commitment to our shire, consisting of a quarry, a concrete plant, a transport depot in Wallan and a head office complex in Kilmore. All are interconnected,” he said.
“Underpinning growth, quarrying creates diverse direct and indirect employment opportunities.
“A quarry must be where the rock is. This site has been identified as a potential supply for commercial basalt for many decades.
“Many here have been pursuing a direct transition to residential [land use], but this entails giving up a high-value, well-located significant resource.”
- The landowner of the proposed quarry location is Wally Mott. Mr Mott is also an owner of the North Central Review.