By Colin MacGillivray
MITCHELL Shire Council representatives are dismayed at Victorian Planning Authority, VPA, support for a quarry south of Wallan, while proponents of the quarry slammed what they described as ‘shameful’ tactics by council.
The VPA released a new Beveridge North West Precinct Structure Plan, PSP, last week after Planning Minister Richard Wynne called in the proceeding in March.
The previous PSP was scrapped after an independent planning panel recommended an amendment to allow the quarry, despite the plan initially being publically exhibited without the quarry included.
The new draft PSP, which supports a quarry, is available for public viewing and feedback at Engage Victoria.
Mitchell Shire Council has opposed the quarry since it was first proposed, twice knocking back planning permit applications by quarry operator Conundrum Holdings.
Council released a statement last week urging residents to lodge objections to the proposed quarry, claiming council representatives were seeking an ‘urgent crisis meeting’ with Mr Wynne to discuss concerns about the project.
Council’s statement said the terms of reference for consultation on the Beveridge North West PSP ministerial advisory committee gave the impression the quarry was ‘a done deal’ and that people who opposed the quarry were being rendered voiceless.
The terms of reference direct the committee – which will make a final recommendation to Mr Wynne – to not consider whether the quarry should be included in the Beveridge North West PSP, which council argued would limit the ability of the committee to hear arguments on the merits of excluding a quarry from the PSP.
Cr Rob Eldridge said the State Government was ‘backflipping’ after initially ruling out a quarry in Wallan.
He said the timing, lack of information presented, and efforts to limit the scope of input were ‘both confusing and concerning’.
“If it goes ahead, a quarry in this location will be a disaster for our existing and future communities,” he said.
“As a local government, we are tasked to represent and support both current and future generations of residents who will live in our municipality; their concerns and interests regarding this proposed quarry deserve an appropriate level of respect and consideration.
“The current process is not the proper way to deal with a community and fails to demonstrate respect for their concerns.”
But Conundrum Holdings managing director Ron Kerr launched a scathing attack on council, labelling it a ‘shameful shire’.
Mr Kerr said he was appalled at what he described as unchecked and ongoing rogue behaviour by council leaders.
“As a local family business who live and work in the Mitchell Shire, Conundrum is shocked at the unwarranted vindictiveness of the shire council and that it has again chosen to turn its back on this significant rock resources and the diverse job opportunities,” he said.
“Mitchell Shire has already squandered hard earned rates trying to deny opportunity and choice in our region. They have ignored the advice of the state time and again,” Mr Kerr said.
Mr Kerr accused council of overstepping the mark by organising a community feedback box with the words ‘tell Minister Wynne this quarry is a sin’ at a Catholic school event.
“Using religious connotations to collect signatures at a school event is shameful behaviour and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms,” he said.
“Council should now refrain from using public resources to conduct its maverick and unsupported campaign.
“It should stop letter-bombing the local community with one-sided and misleading material and stop using community facilities as billboard locations to promote further misinformation.”
Mr Kerr said Conundrum had received more than 400 letters of support from industry, government and the community in the past year.
He said Conundrum would continue to engage with the government and participate in the ongoing consultation process.
Cr Eldridge urged the community to contribute the public consultation.
“I encourage anyone from Beveridge or Wallan who lives, works, goes to school, operates a business or who might be considering moving here in the future to make a submission on the Beveridge North West Precinct Structure Plan,” he said.
“The community’s voice, however, is the most important in this debate, and now is the time to make it count.”
Mitchell Shire Council will host online and in-person information sessions for people considering making a quarry submission.
The community drop-in sessions will be on November 24 from 9am to 11am at Wallan Customer and Library Service Centre, and December 9 from 3pm-5pm at Greater Beveridge Community Centre.
Online sessions via Microsoft Teams will be on November 25 and December 14, both from 7pm-8pm. People can register for online sessions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conundrum Holdings has provided its own information page on the proposed quarry and encouraged people to contact them via the website if they had any queries.
Submissions on the Beveridge North West Precinct Structure Plan close Friday, December 17.
The land where the quarry is proposed is owned by Wally Mott, owner of the Review.