BASS Coast Shire councillors have unanimously shot down the controversial application by a Chinese company to build a major dairy plant in the middle of Kernot.
The decision went against a recommendation from council officers, who proposed the project be halved in scope.
Leadbeater ward councillor, Clare Le Serve, led the charge for the refusal, presenting an alternative motion to deny a permit.
“The application clearly doesn’t demonstrate that 1000 head of cattle is not intensive,” she explained.
“The application is inconsistent with the protection of our agricultural land and particularly the proximity of the free-stall barn to residents.”
She said the barn is 300m to the nearest residence and only 260m to the council-managed Loch-Kernot Road, which is a main tourist avenue.
Cr Le Serve said this goes against Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) guidelines which advise a minimum distance of 5km from an industrial feedpad.
“Surrounding residents would be impacted by this development,” she said.
Cr Le Serve admitted that knocking back such a large investment ($6m) would be “a considerable blow”, but she remained convinced that “a dairy barn in this position is not appropriate”.
If the project were to go ahead, it would include an agricultural barn for keeping of animals, milk bottling plant, cold storage room and the creation of a car park.
The proposal aimed to increase carrying capacity of the land from 500 cattle at present up to 1000.
It was proposed to be constructed in two stages, with the agricultural cattle barn being split between stages one and two.
According to the report prepared by council officers, the proposal was expected to create around eight additional jobs on the site; production of dairy products and potentially up to 30,000 litres of milk per day (at peak operational times based on 1000 cattle each producing 30 litres per day).
The barn, in which dairy cattle were to be kept and fed for up to eight months of the year was to be 228 metres long by 47 metres wide (10,440 sqm) or six times the size of the Korumburra IGA supermarket.
It would have been over 50 metres longer than the MCG, as noted by Cr Neil Rankine during the debate.
Cr Rankine also took a moment to criticise the original application, provided to the council last December.
“GHD is supposedly the best consultants on this sort of thing in the country and I think it’s frankly an insult they presented a document like they presented,” he said, referring to a lack of information in the plans.
The final decision was met with instant applause in the council chamber on Wednesday night, with dozens of residents from Kernot and surrounds squeezing into the room to hear the verdict.
Lisa MacPherson, spokesperson for campaign group Friends of Bass Valley, said the group is elated with the decision.
“Our councillors did a wonderful job for our community, and our future,” Ms MacPherson said.
“They have strong values, morals and vision to see that this development was located in the wrong area, no matter how much money it involved.”
Ms MacPherson said Friends of Bass Valley hope that GHD and Ningbo Dairy Group vice president Harry Wang “would engage with the council to find a better location for the bottling plant/factory farm, rather than try and seek approval at VCAT”.
“It simply did not suit the land, with significant overlays, intensive farming practices, low lying wet land, existing amenities already in place, and a foot print that was going to be bigger than the MCG,” she concluded.
“We hope to think common sense and simple maths will put this application to rest.”
Mr Wang offered no comment when contacted by the Sentinel-Times last week.
Wright blames farmers
for possible VCAT ruling
By Gav Ross
ROUNDS of applause erupted from the gallery after each councillor spoke against the Yo You Diary development at last week’s council meeting.
When it was Cr Phil Wright’s turn to speak, however, the cheers soon turned to jeers.
Normally one to welcome a bit of enthusiasm from the gallery, Cr Wright played party pooper.
“There’s a lot of theatre going on here today,” he proclaimed, bringing the mood in the chamber down a notch.
“I always get nervous when the gallery comes along and starts clapping.
“It makes it feel we aren’t in control of what’s going on.”
Cr Wright turned to face the gallery and pointedly told them what he thought the pending decision to block the dairy development really meant.
“We’re not going to decide, VCAT will decide what goes on here.
“The people from Kernot have come down to say and encourage a decision they would like.”
Cr Wright cited Tecoma and its residents’ battle with a conglomerate a few years ago as an example of what could likely happen.
“Remember, 90 per cent of the people there didn’t want a McDonald’s,” he said.
“But it’s not a plebiscite.
“There are planning rules and controls which guide what can and can’t be done.”
Cr Wright then admonished the dozens of Kernot residents in attendance for not taking the opportunity to work with the council when it formulated its Rural Land Use Strategy.
“That strategy was an opportunity for the people of Kernot to put in a proactive submission.
“From my understanding there wasn’t one submission from Kernot.
“And yet here we are in reactive mode and there are 438 submissions (to the dairy expansion).
“If people are that passionate about their own area, why didn’t they say something about it?
“We’ve been asking what they want for five years.”
Cr Wright added that the “worst” aspect of the pending decision was that the council now had to “come up with something defendable at VCAT”.
“Through the political context of all this cheering and yelling, we don’t have enough foundation to go to VCAT.
“Our officers recommended we took this on, now we have to force them to go (to VCAT) and try to defend something which may not be defendable.
“Had the people of Kernot given us clear direction of how they see their area, we’d have stronger grounds to defend.”
Community reacts on Facebook
REACTIONS to Bass Coast Council’s decision flooded the Sentinel-Times’ Facebook page last Wenesday night just moments after the vote went down.
Here are just a few of the comments posted:
Caroline Taylor: Great news! We have plenty of room in Australia to farm naturally rather than factory farming and locking up animals when they are meant to roam and graze.
Beverley Button: Whooa whooa! Let’s hope VCAT see sense!
Brett Allan: I am sure the company has more money and money always wins in the end.
Joan Farr: There is power when people stick together. Clare is an excellent representative for us. She really does care about her ward.
Kate Pick: Thank you to the council. Great news. No place for this awful development.