Alex Fraser Group has been denied a second bid to extend the life of its recycling operations in Clarinda, in a decision the company says conflicts with multiple government policies.
The recycled aggregates producer lodged two applications with the Kingston Council as it sought a 15-year extension to continue operating at its site in Melbourne’s south-east.
The current permit expires in 2023 but the operation’s future is in doubt because it falls within rezoned land as part of a Green Wedge Plan released in 2015.
Alex Fraser’s first application, which councillors voted down on 28 November, was a Secondary Consent application that allows companies to get written consent or make minor changes to plans directly to the council, without community notification and prevents objections and appeal rights.
The company’s most recent bid was a Section 72 planning application which is similar to a new planning application that requires broad community consultation and a full set of reports relating to traffic and other matters. It was refused on 12 December.
“Three councillors supported the application and spoke in detail as to the importance of the site, however five councillors voted against the application, in both instances, mainly citing the zoning as their reasoning,” Alex Fraser managing director Peter Murphy told Quarry.
For several years, the company has worked with the Victorian Government and others to identify alternative locations but had been unsuccessful. It continues to look for a new site, and met with a landowner as recently as 10 December.
Murphy said the issue clearly impacted multiple state policies and called for a co-ordinated response from the Andrews Victorian Government.
“Our preference has always been to resolve this with council and we have worked with them for over a year to do so,” Murphy added.
“We have been working with the state government for several years and they are acutely aware of the impact closure would have on the environment and economy. In this case, a local government has been asked to make a decision on an issue of state significance, so we are calling on state government to intervene.”
He said given the site’s recycling capacity, which will increase by 200 million bottles annually next year, and the current demand for materials, the issue had become an urgent matter.
“Recycling in Melbourne has been successful because … a network of sites that are close to the city … provide good access to markets,” Murphy said. “Globally, a clear barrier to using recycled materials is the availability of supply within reasonable distances. Anyone in the industry understands the time and cost implications of trucking material from further afield.”
Murphy said Alex Fraser received positive feedback from its immediate neighbours, and objections to its application were predominantly pro-forma letters based solely on “unfounded notions around dust and noise”.
He added Alex Fraser Clarinda has been widely recognised for its “very high standard of environmental controls. We have provided Council with years of data as evidence of our air quality and acoustics management. All councillors who have been to the site – even those who voted against it – have complemented Alex Fraser on the high standard of operation on the site.”
Kingston mayor responds
Kingston Mayor Georgina Oxley said Council could not ignore the community opposition to Alex Fraser’s extension request after receiving more than 900 objections.
“Kingston’s residents have made it clear that they feel they have put up with the waste industry located on their doorstep in the Kingston Green Wedge for far too long,” she said.
“Alex Fraser has known for four years they would need to find a new location, and the Victorian Government has been working with them to find alternatives. They still have another four years to find a suitable site that will ensure both the company’s long-term success and an end to waste-related activities in the Green Wedge.”
Oxley said the council recognised Alex Fraser’s significant role, and claimed the shutdown of the Clarinda site won’t mean Kingston’s kerbside recycling ends up in landfill.
“Kingston Council employs a number of different service providers to fulfil its recycling requirements and has been proactive in using recycled products in the construction of our roads.”
Alex Fraser Group has the option to petition the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to review the ruling.
Murphy said the company would follow the “planning pathways available to us”.