By Colin MacGillivray
Years after it was first proposed, the fate of the mooted North Central Quarry south of Wallan will soon be known.
A ministerial advisory committee spent nearly six weeks hearing legal evidence from a variety of stakeholders about whether or not the quarry should proceed.
Mitchell Shire Council rejected operator Conundrum Holdings’ application to build a quarry at the site but an independent planning panel made a post hoc recommendation the quarry be included in the Beveridge North West Precinct Structure Plan, PSP, in late 2020 after the plan had been publicly exhibited and approved without a quarry.
Then Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne called in the quarry proceedings in early 2021, convening an advisory committee to hear arguments for and against the project.
The committee’s hearing concluded on June 14 after experts and legal representatives for groups including council, Conundrum Holdings, and Yarra Valley Water presented evidence.
Council opposed the quarry, citing concerns about traffic, property values and Wallan residents’ health if it went ahead, while Conundrum Holdings argued the project would cause minimal disruption and create local jobs.
A DELWP spokesperson said the advisory committee would present its recommendations to new Planning Minister Lizzie Blandthorn before the end of August but could not say when a final decision was likely.
“There is usually about six to eight weeks before the committee writes the report and presents it to the minister. At that point it is up to the minister as to when a decision is made and when the [committee’s] report is released,” the spokesperson said.
“Usually [the report] will be released at the same time as the decision.”
Cr Rob Eldridge said council felt the advisory committee hearing had been a fair process.
“There was clear and thorough evidence put to the committee in relation to the existing and future supply of hard rock in Melbourne’s north, which proved there was simply no need for this quarry,” he said.
“Council also submitted that the proposed quarry application should be refused, as did other key parties, because there were clear failings in the documentation presented and it did not respond to the relevant legislative requirements.”
Cr Eldridge said council believed the committee would submit its findings to the Planning Minister in late July or early August.
Both Conundrum Holdings and council thanked people for showing support on either side of the debate.
“As we have always done, Conundrum will continue to respect the process we have participated in, and will await the recommendations made by the ministerial advisory committee,” Conundrum managing director Ron Kerr said.
“Irrespective of the outcome, we would like to thank the community and we are humbled by those who have continued to support us throughout this application.”
Cr Eldridge thanked Wallan residents who made submissions opposing the quarry.
“Council would like to thank the community members for their very powerful verbal submission to the hearing and to the hundreds of residents who made written submissions in opposition to the quarry,” he said.
“Council hopes that the minister will advise the community of his decision, along with releasing the ministerial advisory committee recommendation in full, prior to the November state election.”