The Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne has agreed to a request to unilaterally undertake an environment effects statement (EES) on the possible reopening and expansion of an inactive site in Dromana – thereby bypassing the will of the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council.
A spokesperson for the minister said: ‘The EES process will ensure everyone in the community – including Mornington Shire Council – gets a say.
‘We encourage all interested or affected parties to engage with this process, which mandates all environmental issues be publicly considered in panel hearings,’ the spokesperson added.
The former Pioneer site has been owned by Hillview Quarries since 1999. The Boundary Road pit has been an active site since the 1960s but it is understood quarrying activities have not been undertaken in recent years.
Shire Council mayor Bryan Payne told mpnews.com.au that he had asked the minister to decline the request from Hillview Quarries and direct it to file a planning permit application with the shire.
The spokesperson for the minister said the EES would provide opportunities for the community and stakeholders to engage at various points in the EES process, and the submissions would be referred to an inquiry appointed under the Environment Effects Act.
Five years ago residents opposed the conversion of the quarry to a rubbish tip – also mooted by Hillview Quarries.
In 2017, the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) also denied an application by Hillview to amend a condition on the site’s planning permit so that it would not contain an expiry date. Had the application been successful, work could have been carried out until all resources were exhausted and the quarry had been rehabilitated.
Hillview Quarries has since the VCAT ruling been proactively pushing its latest proposal, including liaising with the minister about undertaking the EES.
According to mpnews.com.au, Hillview CEO Paul Nitas has stated in a letter to nearby property owners that the minister’s decision to proceed with the EES meant that his company would need to ‘conduct rigorous environmental investigations into potential impacts on flora and fauna, waterways, cultural heritage as well as social and economic impacts’.
Quarry contacted Nitas and his office for further comment, but he had not responded at the time of publication.
Hillview Quarries is part of the RE Ross Trust that has donated $110 million – including $10m on the Mornington Peninsula – to charities, education and environmental projects across Victoria since 1970. In the EES, Hillview Quarries has indicated that with diminishing rock reserves, the trust and its benevolent works could be put at risk.
‘Hillview Quarries has a long history of underpinning infrastructure and housing development on the Peninsula,’ Nitas told Quarry in May.
‘Reopening Boundary Road Quarry will ensure that we can continue to supply projects to build the roads and homes that our children will need here on the Mornington Peninsula and beyond.’