PLANNING Minister Richard Wynne’s office has denied the terms of reference guiding a ministerial advisory committee decision on a planned quarry south of Wallan preclude the committee from deciding not to proceed with the quarry.
Mitchell Shire Council has expressed concerns the quarry was a ‘done deal’ from the government’s perspective and the terms of reference limited the committee’s ability to consider excluding the quarry from the new Beveridge North West Precinct Structure Plan, PSP. But a spokesperson for Mr Wynne’s office said that was not the case.
“The terms of reference for the ministerial advisory committee do not remove the committee’s ability to recommend that the quarry not proceed,” the spokesperson said.
“The planning permit application will be considered on its merits by the committee having regard to the revised Beveridge North West Precinct Structure Plan and all submissions received during public consultation.”
Council officials said they would seek an ‘urgent crisis meeting’ with Mr Wynne.
The government spokesperson confirmed the Victorian Planning Authority, VPA, chief executive and other senior executives met with Mitchell Shire councillors on November 17, but did not say whether Mr Wynne planned to meet with council officials.
The VPA began public consultation on the proposed quarry in early November with two online consultation sessions and more than 4500 letters sent to landowners, previous submitters to the Beveridge North West PSP and all parties to the VCAT proceeding for the quarry permit.
Meanwhile, council officials said they would not back off advocacy against the quarry despite apologising for using religious terminology to oppose the quarry at a Catholic school event. A council-run stall at an Assumption College festival contained a community feedback box with the words ‘tell Minister Wynne this quarry is a sin’.
Cr Rob Eldridge apologised to anybody offended by the use of religious terminology in opposition to the quarry, but did not back down from council’s stance of opposing the project.
“Mitchell Shire Council’s campaign to stop plans for a quarry in the Beveridge Northwest Precinct Structure Plan is aimed squarely at the State Government and those who will make the final decision including Mr Wynne,” he said.
“Council is not anti-quarry, just anti-quarry in the middle of a master planned community of more than 100,000 residents.”
Quarry permit applicant Conundrum Holdings managing director Ron Kerr said the group was yet to receive a formal apology and accused the council of being ‘vindictive’.
“We are amazed, incredibly offended and disappointed the concept of using religion as a part of a planning process was even considered suitable by councillors and executives,” he said.
Mr Kerr said the ‘shameful shire’ continued to promote the religious material on its digital media and at events at the weekend.
“We are incredibly saddened that our own shire is spreading misinformation, half-truths and falsehoods around the application, manipulating future resident numbers within PSP, and wanting to deny jobs, opportunity and choice to local workers and families.”
People can make submissions by visiting engage.vic.gov.au/beveridgenorthwest.
• Wally Mott, the owner of the land on which the quarry is proposed, is also the owner of the Review.