Illustration kindly provided by Sharyn Madder, c. 1970
Philanthropy at a cost
Here’s the crazy thing: the developer of the new quarry – The Ross Trust - is a philanthropic charity with a stated mission of “enhancing biodiversity for the sustainability of Victoria’s native flora, fauna and ecosystems."
Yes, you read it right. On the one hand, the Ross Trust states it is dedicated to protecting the environment through its charitable donations. On the other hand, it is plotting to bulldoze pristine bushland of high conservation value which in turn, stands to diminish regional biodiversity.
Doesn’t make sense, does it? Here’s the full story.
Destroying the legacy of Roy Everard Ross?
Roy Everard Ross was a successful quarryman who built his fortune partly on the back of a quarry in Dromana (Hillview Quarries). When he died in 1970, he insisted that the protection and preservation of Australian flora and fauna would be a major focus of the charitable Trust established in his name.
Since then, the Ross Trust has been doing good work: they distribute money to a wide variety or organisations, including environmental groups.
This kind of philanthropy – a charity based on mining - might have been appropriate for R.E. Ross in the 1960’s but it’s not an acceptable position today. The Ross Trust and its Trustees cannot claim to be conservationists while simultaneously seeking to bulldoze, blast and mine a massive part of Arthurs Seat’s remnant bushland, animal and plant habitat and pristine waterways. The new quarry is fundamentally incompatible with the legacy of Roy Ross.
A better way forward
The Ross Trust has in excess of $60 million in assets and investments and 87 per cent of its annual income comes from its investments. Read the Ross Trust Annual Report 2019-2020 here.
It simply doesn’t need a new quarry to continue its good work. As Trustees of R.E Ross’ estate, it is incumbent upon them to find another, sustainably focused, investment strategy. One way forward has been proposed by Professor Jeff Floyd, former Chair of Parks Victoria, in his report outlining a vision for the Arthurs Seat Parklands. With a professed duty to conserve nature, the Ross Trust should preserve – not destroy – Arthurs Seat.
A message to the Ross Trust
The Ross Trust in conflict with the local community
The Ross Trust was established in 1970 as part of the will of Roy Ross - owner of Hillview Quarries. The Trust owns and operates Hillview Quarry in Dromana, and its revenue is distributed as charitable grants.
The will of Roy Ross stipulated that the Trust donates funds for "the acquisition, preservation and maintenance of National and public parks."
The Ross Trust bought the old Pioneer Quarry from operator Hanson Group in 1998. The quarry had already been depleted of resources prior to the purchase.
In 2013, the the Ross Trust applied to convert the old Pioneer Quarry into a rubbish tip. This was met with widespread condemnation given its location (on Arthurs Seat) and the significant damage to the environment and regional economy. The proposal was rightfully rejected by the EPA.
Hillview Quarries (owned by the Ross Trust) has failed to rehabilitate the old Pioneer site as stipulated in the (now expired) Planning Permit (see the rehabilitation plans here). Honoring permit conditions to restore an exploited site is an absolute minimum display of good corporate citizenship. The Ross Trust has ignored our requests for the rehabilitation of the site over many years.
The disused Pioneer Quarry on the Arthurs Seat escarpment. The Ross Trust sought to convert it into a picturesque landfill - a tip with bay views.
Hillview Quarries has a poor compliance record for site maintenance and revegetation. Years of neglect of the Pioneer quarry site has resulted in widespread weed infestation (pine trees) into the State Park. In addition, Hillview Quarries has revegetated its current (operational) quarry with Sallow Wattle - also a weed - which too has spread into the State Park.
Hillview Quarries' operational quarry in Dromana (substantially smaller than the new proposal) already generates intolerable dust, noise, vibrations and heavy traffic for nearby residents.
Pine trees have infested the State Park from Hillview's Pioneer site after failure to carry out maintenance.
The Ross Trust has inherited a parcel of land of high conservation value. Since its private acquisition, the surrounding region has evolved into a premier Victorian tourist destination. This land is now completely unsuited to mining by any modern standards. The Ross Trust should acknowledge these facts, honour its mission and preserve this precious parcel of land for the benefit of all Victorians.
The Ross Trust comprises five trustees. They also serve as Directors of Hillview Quarries:
Jeremy Kirkwood (Chair)
John Webster AM
The CEO is Sarah Hardy