THE environment and local economy will be put at risk by the proposed $6 million Kernot dairy plant according to concerned local residents.
Seventeen of them expressed their opinions about the application at a hearing held by the Bass Coast Shire Council on Wednesday night.
Approximately 430 submissions were received by the council in opposition to the application by Yo You Dairy, which proposes to build a milk bottling plant and a feed barn to accommodate up to 1000 cows.
Due to the overwhelming response to the issue, opponents were invited to explain their submissions at the Wonthaggi Arts Centre.
Six of the seven councillors were present at the hearing and heard a variety of reasons why people don’t believe this development is a good idea.
The issue came to light at the end of January and was a shock to local residents, who found out about the application days before the closing date for public submissions.
Cr Clare Le Serve, whose Leadbeater Ward is the where the plant is proposed, said the process had improved, given the bad start it had.
“We’ve given the community, with their submissions, the opportunity to speak so that’s what tonight is about and it’s an important part of the process so all the councillors can gauge the community’s reaction,” she said.
“This will be coming to council in the August meeting. It is an open forum and I encourage people to come to hear the debate.
“The agenda, the recommendation and report will be on the internet the Friday prior.”
Although Cr Le Serve acknowledged that the developed is a great concern for the community, she stopped short of giving her opinion on the issue.
“It’s a very complex issue and also it is a planning application so we need to take advice from the industry,” she said.
“I’m unable to give any definition of what my position is right at the moment. I’ll be waiting for the other councillors to have a debate about it in the council chamber.”
The key issues discussed on the night included:
• Impact on local tourism and the town’s amenities.
• Contamination of the nearby water supplies.
• Foreign ownership concerns.
• Lack of environmental impact studies.
• Inadequate explanation of the planned ‘free stall barn’.
The planned milk bottling plant was mentioned at times by opponents but wasn’t at the forefront of discussion.
Huge farm a threat to hamlet
BARB Stewart’s family have been farming in Kernot for more than 130 years so it’s safe to say she’s well-informed about the local area.
But she is concerned the small hamlet of Kernot will be known as ‘the place not to be’.
She told the hearing on Wednesday night of the town’s jewel – the Kernot Store and Café.
“This brings locals as well as many visitors to our town to sit, relax and enjoy the surrounds,” she said.
“Bass Coast is known as a tourism destination but this proposal and this particular farm with wet conditions will have the reverse effect. This wonderful café is in jeopardy from this proposal. Kernot today is in jeopardy from this proposal.”
The proposed Yo You Dairy development is 900m from the store and just 400m from the Kernot Hall.
Residents believe the store and the hall – as well as amenities including the Kernot community market and the Kernot tennis courts – will be impacted upon by the odour arising from 500 head of cattle contained in a confined space.
Mrs Stewart said the lack of detail in the proposal and lack of environmental impact studies is concerning.
She said it has not been determined accurately what sort of barn is proposed by the applicant.
“The terminology and description used for the shed to house 500+ dairy cows has been confusing – from a free stall barn to a cattle feed pad to an agriculture barn,” she said
“Because it is a sought after area and known for its food production, the proponents may think a feed barn could be the answer to the wet winters experienced, without realising it brings another set of problems like effluent run-off and its subsequent containment, rainfall collection and storage from the massive sheds proposed.
“Contamination of the water table and also the known problems of disease outbreaks and foot problems associated with housing animals in a confined space for eight months are all serious and relevant issues that need to be addressed.”
Problems with foreign ownership
IT WASN’T only Kernot residents fighting against the proposed Kernot Dairy application at the Bass Coast Shire’s hearing on Wednesday.
Judy Jennison, who introduced herself to the forum as a concerned Inverloch resident, said the development affects all people in the shire.
“This is foreign ownership!” she proclaimed at the hearing.
“Profits go offshore, taxes; are they paid here? They take the milk and I suspect they don’t have the care for the animals that we’d have.
“We don’t need foreign investment in agriculture; we do agriculture very well in this country. We know the climate, the soil and what animals’ needs are.”
Mrs Jennison accused the proponent of the application – Yo You Dairy – of making a false claim in the application proposal.
According to Mrs Jennison, the proponent claims there is no change to the existing land use.
The land is defined as extensive animal husbandry, where the animals’ main food source is obtained by grazing and foraging for plants.
Mrs Jennison pointed out that a huge shed will be built to contain the animals and food will be brought to them, meaning a change will be made to the existing land use.
“In the planning application permit for the shed, we simply don’t have details, what is the plan inside the shed?” she said.
“There simply aren’t details of what goes on inside that shed, what is the design layout? We don’t know.
“This particular area I believe is covered by a significant landscape overlay.
“This project directly contravenes the Bass Coast Shire’s planning policies. Instead of rolling green hills and open spaces, this proposal offers a large, oversized industrial human constructed shed.
“Kernot is known as a scenic farming town and is often visited by tourists.
“They don’t go there to see huge, ugly industrial sheds; they go there to see a genuine rural town, with farms and cows grazing in paddocks.
“The Bass Coast Shire thrives very much on tourism, but this is an industrial project.”