Aboriginal Victoria (AV) had supported a claim over the cultural significance of land at Anakie, north of Geelong, Victoria, which is preventing an approved quarry development from going ahead.
The dispute dates back to May 2014 when Aerolite Quarries sought planning permission for a basalt quarry adjacent to two of its existing scoria quarries that have been in operation for around 70 years.
Aerolite managing director and former mayor of Geelong, Ken Jarvis, said due to the City of Greater Geelong failing to make a decision over the new quarry within the required time limit, it took the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
During the process, a heritage advisor objected to the application, arguing the land was of Aboriginal cultural significance and put forward a creation story as evidence.
“At no stage was there any claim that there was any physical evidence of any former Aboriginal presence on the land. We argued the matter in VCAT and won our case,” Jarvis told Quarry.
“VCAT ruled in its decision that it saw no merit in the Aboriginal heritage claim and that as a result there were no cultural heritage issues associated with the land on which the new quarry was located.”
Aboriginal Victoria later became involved and in July 2015 it registered 430ha of land, encompassing Aerolite’s two existing quarries and the proposed site, as an “Aboriginal place” known as Anakie Youang.
Aerolite Quarries strongly disputed the evidence used to substantiate the listing and said it had the support of a number of Aboriginal groups who questioned the validity of the Anakie Youang claim.
The business took the case to the Supreme Court and earlier this month it was ruled AV would have to reassess the listing within the next six months.
Aerolite has written to the Victorian Ombudsman requesting it examine AV’s handling of the listing, with Jarvis saying it had not acted in an “appropriate manner” and had not been open with its decision-making.
He said all evidence would now be openly available for review and challenge by Aerolite or interested parties before any new decision is made.
Jarvis said the two-year planning and legal battle has done “great damage” to his business, saying it has cost large amounts of time, money and energy, caused “enormous” personal stress to the owners, operators and managers, and prevented “critical long-term developments” from going ahead.
“If this distressing situation had not happened we would now have a much bigger business, employing many more people in new high value occupations,” he commented.
“All quarry operators should now be on notice that this legislation is now a ticking bomb and that any disgruntled opponent to their existing or any newly proposed operations could use the same method used against our operation to put the very existence of their quarry in jeopardy,” Jarvis concluded.
An Aboriginal Victoria spokesperson told Quarry: “The land that is a part of the legal settlement, which is adjacent to the land on which Aerolite wishes to build a new quarry, is both still registered and protected.”
The state agency expects to complete its reconsideration of the registration within six months but has not yet received any further evidence from Aerolite.
The spokesperson added: “The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 provides processes for quarry proponents to manage their risk of harming Aboriginal cultural heritage.
“Completing a cultural heritage management plan early in the development approval process will prevent later costs, delays and disputes.”
For more information about preparing a cultural heritage management plan, visit the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet website.
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