the problem OUTLINED
An area of high environmental significance
Arthurs Seat State Park has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the state. It features numerous animal and plant species which are classified as "rare", "threatened" or "endangered" and so protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
A 2011 Fauna Survey of the Arthurs Seat Escarpment records five threatened species as listed in the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act: Lewin’s Rail, the White Bellied Sea Eagle, the Powerful Owl, Koala and the Southern Brown Bandicoot (presumed extinct in the park by the 2011 survey, but has in fact been spotted, albeit rarely). A further 32 species are considered to be of regional significance and 11 species recorded are of high local significance.
In recognition of the ecological significance of Mornington Peninsula parks, millions of dollars (by Federal and State governments) has been invested to establish a biolink across the Mornington Peninsula. The proposed quarry site forms an essential component of this biolink, and its development would lead to inevitable and wider-spread loss of biodiversity. That 92 acres acres so delicately situated should be considered for mining defies all logic. PPG has written to the Minister to reject the proposal outright.
It may inspire you to drop him a line as well.
Landscape Protection, overlays
The site has a number of significant planning overlays:
· Wild fire management overlay
· Environmental significance overlay
· Erosion management overlay
· Significant landscape overlay
· Vegetation protection overlay
· Public conservation and resource overlay
It's the economy, stupid.
The Mornington Peninsula boats a vibrant and lucrative tourism industry, contributing $275 million to the local economy annually - and it's growing. Rural and natural settings, fresh local produce, parks and beaches are a major drawcard. The proposed quarry is near the hinterland, known for cellar doors, wineries, pick-your-own farms and boutique food producers. Blasting, trucks and dust clouds do not make for a clean and green image. Quarry towns are not tourism towns.
Ninety-four acres of Arthurs Seat hillside will be blasted. The scarring cannot be concealed. It will be visible from the freeway entering the Peninsula, bay beaches and beyond. Enough said.
Hillview will extract one million tonnes of rock per year, for 70 years. Needless to say, this means lots of blasts, dust clouds, noise, and around 40 trucks (20 roundtrips) per hour. All this in the State Park, near residents, near wineries and food producers, and as backdrop to bay beaches.
The approval process
A quarry requires a number of permits - a Works Authority (from DELWP) and usually, a Planning Permit from the local planning authority (the Council). The planning permit for the old quarry (Pioneer on site 121) has expired (determined by VCAT in 2017). The site to be quarried (site 115) has never had a planning permit attached, and would be unlikely to be granted one as Council has previously documented:
"An approval for expansion onto adjacent land (115) would be unlikely given its high visual exposure and bushland cover.”
So with no permit, and no certainty of council support, Hillview has gone straight to the Planning Minister for swift statutory approval to bypass the niggling objectors. Timely, given the boom in infrastructure projects, poor planning by the state and bureaucratic delays in sourcing the required materials. In 2018 Victoria, nothing is sacrosanct when there's pressure to source materials.
So what now? An Environmental Effects Statement (EES) as a matter of routine. Full details of what an EES is can be found on the Victorian State Government website. In a nutshell, Hillview commissions consultants to predict the environmental impact of their quarry. To quell any alarm, measures are put into place to "mitigate" the adverse environmental impact. The Minister's decision is final.
Except the process is flawed. The consultants are commissioned by the proprietor (Hillview). As reported in The Guardian, the process often lacks independence and "tells the story that the proponents want to tell." Ninety-eight percent of development projects undergoing an environmental evaluation process are approved. Proponents know that (almost) everything gets approved.
Victorians should rightfully expect the protection of our state and national parks and bushland of high conservation value. How disgraceful they could be damaged, infrastructure boom or otherwise.
Hillview Quarries is owned by the RE Ross Trust - a charitable trust established in 1970 whose revenue is derived from Hillview Quarries in Dromana. Their mission is to:
Address disadvantage and inequity
Encourage and promote social inclusiveness, community connectedness, health and wellbeing
Protect and preserve Australian flora and fauna
The Trust has supported many worthy charities and organisations throughout Victoria. But this comes at great expense. The Ross Trust has pursued projects which would cause irrevocable environmental, economic and social damage to the Mornington Peninsula (which incidentally, receives only a tiny portion of annual donations).
In 2013, the the Ross Trust applied to convert a disused quarry (old Pioneer) into a rubbish tip. This was met with widespread condemnation given its location (on Arthurs Seat) and the likely damage to the environment and regional economy. The proposal was rejected by the EPA.
Hillview Quarries has failed to rehabilitate the old Pioneer site as stipulated in the (now expired) Planning Permit (see the rehabilitation plans here). The rehabilitated site could be a major regional attraction.
Hillview has a poor compliance record for site maintenance and revegetation. Neglect of the Pioneer quarry site has resulted in widespread weed infestation (pine trees) into the State Park. Hillview revegetated its current quarry with Sallow Wattle - also a weed - which has also spread into the State Park.
Hillview's operational quarry in Dromana (substantially smaller to the new proposal) already generates intolerable dust, noise and heavy traffic.
Hillview now seeks Ministerial approval for a new quarry, of unprecedented proportions, surrounded by the State Park. It has bypassed the Council, knowing it would be met with community objection and be unlikely to gain Council approval.
It's unfortunate the RE Ross Trust has inherited land so sensitively situated, and by modern standards, completely unsuited for mining. It is a greater shame that community must tirelessly rally against the Ross Trust's seemingly entitled destruction of the Arthurs Seat Escarpment.