LEONGATHA South and Koonwarra residents are prepared to go the distance to fight plans to fill a local quarry with 200,000 tonnes of Melbourne’s rubbish each year until 2033.
More than 60 people packed into the old Leongatha South Primary School last Monday night to form a campaign committee and devise a strategy.
Lawyer and Koonwarra business owner Claire Crocker said a targeted campaign that focusses on each of the risks associated with the plan would be required.
These included the potential for groundwater contamination, traffic problems due to the arrival of 20 A-Double trucks every day, and odour.
“This will be a marathon, not a sprint,” she said.
Veolia, the foreign-owned waste management company, outlined its plans for the exhausted quarry on Whitelaws Track, to nearby residents with face to face meetings.
Last week’s meeting allowed those residents to share the details with others who were not briefed.
Veolia has not yet applied to the South Gippsland Shire Council for a permit for the $10 million project which will see the quarry lined with clay and plastic.
Cr Jim Fawcett attended the meeting and said it was important that the community does not see the council as the enemy in the process.
“We’ll ensure that what we learn, the community will learn.
“Primarily, this is a planning issue. Whatever the outcome, the council has the obligation to ensure that the appropriate controls are in place.”
Chris Moscript’s family farm borders the quarry site.
He said his main concern is the potential for groundwater contamination.
“Water runs out of there and through our farm all the time.
“This is a prime dairying area and there are springs all over the place. If they stuff up the water, it will be devastating.”
He’s not looking forward to the stench, either, should the project go ahead.
“It’s going to stink. If you get prevailing winds, you can’t say that there won’t be an odour.”
Leongatha South farmer Gordon Vagg said he’d spoken to residents close to a suburban landfill, where the news was not good.
He said there was seepage into a local creek but authorities had not acted.
Mr Vagg said landfill should not be considered as a waste disposal option in the 21st century.
“There were plans a couple of years ago to build large incinerators in the Latrobe Valley to burn the rubbish and power turbines.
“What happened to that idea? Countries in Europe are doing it. The technology is there.”
Norway, Germany, Belgium the Netherlands and Sweden import rubbish from other countries as part of the ‘Waste to energy’ push.
“There’s a dual highway all the way to the Latrobe Valley. It makes more sense for it to be there.”
At the public meeting, contact details were exchanged to ensure everyone stays updated with the campaign.
A Facebook page, ‘Dump the Dump’ has since been established with more campaign details to follow.
Environment minister unaware: O’Brien
GIPPSLAND South MP Danny O’Brien raised the concerns of South Gippsland residents about the proposed landfill at Leongatha South in State Parliament.
Mr O’Brien said he was concerned that Melbourne was seeking to dump its rubbish in Gippsland and asked the Minister for Environment, Lisa Neville, whether the project was supported by the government.
“This proposal has come completely out of the blue and created great angst in the community in South Gippsland,” Mr O’Brien said.
“In Gippsland we understand the need for waste facilities and we accept the need to deal with our own waste.
“My concern is why Gippsland should become Melbourne’s dumping ground.”
Mr O’Brien said he has been studying the Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan which sets out the strategy for future waste management.
“One of the goals of the plan is to ensure that impacts on the community, environment and public health of waste are not disproportionately felt.
“Sending 200,000 tonnes of Melbourne’s rubbish per annum to Gippsland doesn’t seem to me to be a proportional response.
“I appreciate an exhausted quarry might appear to be a good place for a tip.
“But there are a whole host of concerns held by the local community and the Labor Government needs to play a role in addressing these concerns.”
The Minister told Mr O’Brien that the development had also been news to her and that any impression that the location of the tip had been settled was “absolutely not the case”.
She also said the proposal was not part of any regional implementation plan and she shared Mr O’Brien’s concerns about the level of anxiety the proposal had raised in the community.
Mr O’Brien said it was important for the community to understand that this idea had not been submitted to South Gippsland Shire, nor to the State Government in any formal sense, and there was no certainty it would proceed.