Leongatha chosen for Melbourne’s waste
By Nathan Johnston
AN exhausted bluestone quarry, just four kilometres from Leongatha, has been recommended to the State Government as the preferred location to dump southeast Melbourne’s domestic and commercial industry waste.
The proposed site, on Whitelaws Track, visible from the Bass Highway, will take 800 tonnes of waste every day (200,000 tonnes every year) for 15 years.
The site, owned by Phil Nesci, was officially nominated on Friday by the proponents, French multinational waste management company Veolia, as part of the government’s Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan.
Nearby landholders were advised of the $10 million plans via a Veolia letterbox drop last week.
Company representatives then met with nearby landholders in person.
The landholders’ main concerns are about the impact on ground water, odour and traffic, in what is a fertile and successful dairying area.
They’re planning a measured campaign to stop the project which Veolia expects to commence in 2017, and complete 12 months later.
Groundwater issues will be the main focus.
Farms in the area rely on bore water for stock, particularly in summer.
South Gippsland Water augmented Leongatha’s potable drinking supply with bore water from the area in the 2007 drought.
Veolia representatives say the old quarry’s walls will be realigned and lined with clay and a tough plastic bladder.
But with blasting to continue at a new quarry next door, farmers are concerned about integrity of the landfill’s proposed lining.
Ron Wangman and Maree Goodwin live next door to the site and have been campaigning strongly against the prospect of coal seam gas mining in South Gippsland.
“You would think there would be a more suitable site,” Mr Wangman said.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Not in my backyard’, but there are places in Victoria, like the Little Desert, that would be better suited than the pristine farmland that we have here.”
He said he’s already set to work on building a strong case against the project at Leongatha South.
Brian Trotman has a farm across the road and said he’s concerned that if this is approved, Melbourne’s rubbish will be coming this way for the next 30 years.
“They want to fill the old quarry in the next 15 years – by then the new quarry will be exhausted and they’ll want to fill that too.”
Mr Trotman said water is regularly pumped from the quarry base, so if ground water can seep in, it must surely be able to seep out into the aquifers.
20 truckloads every day
Veolia consultant Max Spedding said 10 A-Double trucks would bring two loads each every day to the site.
The trucks would use the proposed Leongatha heavy vehicle bypass and head out to Koonwarra, before turning right onto the Koonwarra-Inverloch Road at the Koonwarra General Store and right again at Whitelaws Track.
South Gippsland Shire Council CEO Tim Tamlin said the council wants to support the community throughout the process.
“This was only sprung on the council last week as well, so the concerns the community has, we share.
“This is a journey that we want to take together, and it’s just at the beginning.”
Mr Tamlin said he expected the project would require council approval, unlike the Wonthaggi Desalination Project where the Bass Coast Shire Council was omitted from the process.
“It will need planning approval and EPA approval – everyone will have their say.”
Why Leongatha was selected
MULTINATIONAL waste management company Veolia said Leongatha South was chosen after an extensive state-wide search for an appropriate landfill site, capable of accepting waste from Melbourne’s southeast, Mornington Peninsula and other parts of Gippsland.
Disused quarries are preferred, according to Veolia consultant Max Spedding, due to their ease of management.
He said in 2009, it was recognised that Melbourne’s landfills would soon be at capacity.
“In 2011, we commenced an extensive search for landfill sites.
“There were quite specific guidelines and minimum standards.
“There are an enormous number of quarries and mines in Gippsland.”
He said a process of elimination was used with inaccessibility for trucks and proximity to homes ruling out many potential sites.
Three sites were shortlisted.
• Tynong: Fulton-Hogan’s quarry was ideal but there were long term plans for housing.
• Yallourn North: Veolia has an option on that property but has no short-term access to the site due to Boral’s ongoing activity at the quarry.
• Leongatha South: The 3 million cubic metre hole had recently been worked out and Holcim had commenced work on adjacent land.
Mr Spedding said the site is suitable as the groundwater in the area is not suitable for human consumption.
“It is rated 2A, which is suitable for stock, but not 1A which is suitable for human consumption.”
He said EPA approval will still be required due to its proximity to streams.
The adjacent Gwyther Creek runs into the Tarwin River, which supplies Meeniyan’s drinking water.
“We found Leongatha is a suitable site and will request an exemption regarding the ground water and surface water.
“By building a best practice modern landfill, we can overcome these issues.”
He said the consultation and approval process would not be quick.
“We would not begin construction before 2017 and hope to open in 2018.”
It would involve gas and leachate collection systems that will enable all waste to be handled on site.
Media and communications manager David Hawkings said people would have all of the information they needed about the plans.
“People will object, but at the end of the process, when people look back and ask, ‘Have they treated us well’, we’d like them to say ‘yes’.
Veolia spokesperson Andrew Race said that when the facility closes in 2033, Veolia plans to fully rehabilitate the land.
“We plan to create a long-term asset for Leongatha by working closely with the community and Council to develop a significant public space that will benefit the region well beyond the life of the project.
“Additionally, we expect local employment to be another community benefit, as Veolia intends to prioritise local businesses and contractors during the construction of the landfill and give community preference to the 20 staff who will be employed to operate the facility.
“Veolia will play an active role in the Leongatha community, engaging with residents around the best ways we can support and contribute to the social, economic and environmental growth and prosperity of the region throughout both the construction and operation of the facility,” Mr Race said.
Veolia will be holding community forums throughout the approvals period for this project.
If you are interested in attending, or for more detail about the project, call the community information line on 0428 928 561 or visit www.veolia.com.au/sustainable-solutions/community-development.
Landfill as it stands
• 200,000 tonnes per year
• 800 tonnes per day
• 20 truckloads daily via Koonwarra
• 15 year project
• $10 million works required
• Residents informed last Monday
• Council informed Wednesday
• No application with council yet
• Site recommended to State Government on Friday
• Decision rests with council or planning minister
All part of the plan: Shing
EASTERN Region MP Harriet Shing said the announcement of Leongatha as the preferred site to take waste from southeast Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula is part of the Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan.
The plan was released in early June and provides the road map and vision for long term planning (30 years) for waste and resource recovery in Victoria.
“Following the release of the SWRRIP, seven Regional Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plans will be developed to capture the needs and priorities of each region of Victoria,” Ms Shing said.
“The Gippsland Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan will be developed and integrated into the statewide plan over the next 18 months.
“The Andrews Labor Government has increased the level of community engagement in the development of implementation plans and there will be a variety of ways in which the community can contribute to their development.”
According to the legislation, Implementation Plans must look at options for future landfill capacity and will need to decide if new landfill sites need to be scheduled or if there is enough capacity in existing sites to meet its landfilling needs.
“To apply for a works approval, any new or expanding landfills must be listed on the schedule contained in the Implementation Plan.
“Implementation Plans do not determine whether a site should be approved through the planning system, or provide a works approval.
“Planning decisions are the responsibility of local government and in some instances, the Minister for Planning.
“It’s the role of the EPA as the environmental regulator to consider applications for works approvals.
“It’s also the role of the EPA to ensure that companies operate in compliance with their licences and manage the day to day operation of their waste facilities to minimise impacts on the community.”