By Kate Taylor
Opposition appears to be growing against a proposal by Maddingley Brown Coal to bring rubbish into Moorabool and dump it in its existing tip.
MBC has applied to Moorabool Shire Council to amend its existing permit so that it can dump putrescible rubbish such as household waste at its tip as part of commercial arrangements.
Already, 424 objections have been lodged – however that number is set to grow after people were encouraged to send questions and submissions in writing to council, at a meeting held last week.
About 150 locals gathered at the public forum where Mayor Paul Tatchell stressed that the meeting was about gathering information on the permit amendment application process and not about answering specific questions about the tip.
The amendment has two parts – to allow the dumping of putrescible waste and also to allow the tip to operate 365 days per year to ensure commercial consistency.
East Ward Councillor Tonia Dudzik and CEO Derek Madden attended the meeting, along with planning staff, General Manager Satwinder Sandhu with a presentation on the process by Bronwyn Southee (Coordinator Statutory Planning).
All stressed that no decision on the proposed amendment has been made by council yet.
“Is this a done deal? No, it’s not,” one planning officer told the meeting. “There’s a whole lot of stuff that goes into making the final determination.”
Questions from the floor included whether a fire such as that at the Hazlewood mine could be prevented, comments around the current EPA guidelines not being enough, whether there is a sunset clause to the permit and how often the permit can be amended without requiring a fresh permit which would come with increased scrutiny and requirements.
“As an applicant they have a right to apply – whether or not it gets approved is another matter, but they have a right to apply,” Mr Sandhu told the meeting.
The crowd was unhappy when told that any rubbish being brought into the tip would be regulated by EPA guidelines and not controlled by council.
“You can like it or not, but that’s the reality of what it is,” a planning officer responded.
It was when the questions on odour began that frustration started to boil over.
“We can’t go into too much detail about the merit of the proposal,” Mr Sandhu said. “There is existing operational odour which is managed by the EPA,” he told the meeting, to which much of the audience laughed.
Council officers then tried to end the meeting and sought to instead meet with attendees one-on-one to assist them with their submissions, however the crowd began to complain that the meeting had only gone for one hour and they did not understand why it was finishing up.
Mayor Tatchell then took the microphone, explaining that council and councillors are hamstrung by legislation around the process.
‘We don’t make the rules, but we don’t break them either,” Cr Tatchell said.
Submissions from the community can now be made directly to council.
Current submissions raise questions and concerns around the impact on public health, the environment, amenity, the close proximity to residences, schools and gateways into the town.
All submitter’s will be notified two weeks before a report prepared by planning officers – and containing a recommendation on whether or not to approve the permit amendment – is due to go before a council meeting
Once a decision has been made, either way, the matter could be taken to VCAT or during the process, the Planning Minister is able to call it in for a decision.