By Colin MacGillivray

AN appeal against Mitchell Shire Council’s decision to deny a planning permit for a quarry south of Wallan will be heard by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in early May.

Councillors unanimously voted to reject quarry operator Conundrum Holdings’ permit bid at a meeting last week, citing concerns about its potential impacts on planning and future residential growth in the area, the health of Wallan residents and the natural environment.

It was the second time Mitchell Shire Council had refused a planning permit for a quarry at the site, after also rejecting an application by Conundrum Holdings in 2016.

Late last year a Victorian Planning Authority independent planning panel recommended a quarry be added to the Beveridge North West Precinct Structure Plan, PSP, despite the plan initially going through a community consultation process without the inclusion of a quarry.

Conundrum Holdings managing director Ron Kerr said he believed the planning panel’s decision to approve the quarry’s addition to the PSP would aid the company’s VCAT appeal.

“This has been a long and worthwhile application, with many opinions and recommendations. The due process is still continuing and we will accept the ultimate umpire’s decision, which will be handed down later this year,” he said.

Mitchell Shire Mayor Rhonda Sanderson said council would call on the State Government to halt the quarry project.
Councillors also encouraged objectors to the quarry to lobby government ministers.

“A recommendation from the recent Beveridge North West Precinct Structure Plan Planning Panel Report, which supports the quarry, flies in the face of the Victorian Government’s own policies to support well-planned connected neighbourhoods,” she said.

“We need the State Government to intervene now and stop this quarry before our community’s quality of life is impacted due to truck traffic, noise and vibrations.”

At last week’s council meeting Deputy Mayor Nathan Clark said while quarry material was needed to meet Melbourne’s growing infrastructure needs, a quarry should not be placed near the Wallan community.

“I agree with the applicant – the material is needed for future growth, but there is no requirement that the materials used for the planned growth of Mitchell Shire be sourced from within the area of planned residential growth,” he said.

But Mr Kerr said basalt deposits of comparable quality to the one south of Wallan were rare and needed to be capitalised on.

“After surveying over 500,000 hectares, this unique site on Melbourne’s basalt plains, which is within the extractive industry interest area earmarked since 1992, presents a very high-quality rock resource capable of meeting the future infrastructure build with direct access onto the highway network,” he said.

“Every Victorian already uses between eight and 10 tonnes of quarry material on average per annum. Much of this is used in building homes with this figure increasing when major infrastructure, such as the Big Build or construction of the Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal, is underway.

“This site helps by creating choice in the market and delivering quarry products with the lowest possible carbon footprint, and that benefits everyone.”

Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green said it was important to find a balance between preserving the character of towns like Wallan and obtaining the raw material required for home building and infrastructure projects.

“Our government will keep working to make sure we get the balance right between securing the resources we need to support Victoria’s growth, and preserving the excellent liveability of our communities,” she said.

“I’m advised that the matter is now before VCAT for consideration and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on a matter that is before a judicial tribunal.”

Resources Minister Jaclyn Symes said quarry materials had enabled large infrastructure projects to keep the state’s economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Minerals and quarry products play an essential role in our everyday lives – they make up the houses we live in, the train tracks we ride on, and the computers we work from. Our resources sector helps us all,” she said.

“The resources sector has kept going all throughout this pandemic – supporting jobs and our everyday needs.”

Cr Fiona Stevens called on Mitchell Shire residents to contact their local politicians if they were concerned about the quarry.

“Quarries are legitimate businesses. What it’s about is putting it in the right place, and this is not the right place,” she said.

“This quarry is going to affect the liveability of the area, developmental planning, the health of locals, the noise, the traffic, dust.

“It’s about putting these industries in the right location. Smack bang in the middle of an identified growth area is not the right place.

“It’s the State Government that has a decision on this, and that’s where the community needs to be directing their attention if they don’t want this to continue. Speak loudly is all I say.”

The landowner of the proposed quarry location is Wally Mott. Mr Mott is also an owner of the North Central Review.