As reported in the ‘Weekend Australian’, on the front page no less, Harry Wang, representing Ningbo Dairy Group of China, is now the owner of five dairy farms near Kernot.
We are told that he is confounded by our council’s unanimous decision to reject his project even though council’s planning department had recommended approval and despite encouragement from both our State and Federal governments.
Well Harry, welcome to a democracy! You come from a totalitarian state where government policy is rigidly enforced throughout every level of administration right down to a next-door neighbour who is just as likely to be a government agent.
I do not wish to be critical of this as I make this observation simply in order to make a comparison between two government systems.
Our government policy is an expression of intent only which is not enforceable and can only be put into practise by an act of parliament and council’s planning department merely makes a study of regulations and legalities etc. after which council is free to make its own decision.
There were 430 formal objections to Harry’s project as well as resounding public opinion opposing it which fully reflects the council’s decision.
There is no doubt however, that jobs would have been created and advertised locally with preference to those fluent in Mandarin.
Now we come to the ‘Elephant in the room’ whose methods might be a little more understood by Harry and I refer to the VCAT.
As we often have seen, this tribunal can ride roughshod over a democratically elected council decision and community opinion.
Unlike our council, which is accountable to us, the VCAT is a faceless machine whose rulings have almost no effective means of being challenged. We are able to attend council meetings and lobby its members as well as bail them up in the street in order to communicate our opinions.
The VCAT hearings by contrast, provide very limited public access if any, and interested parties (Harry for instance) are likely to spend large amounts of money on legal representation in order to succeed.
This VCAT process is perfectly legal and any party is within their rights to pursue this course of action.
It is not possible for several hundred members of the community to attend tribunal hearings nor are we likely to bump into its members on the street as we can be confident that they do not even live here and will not be subjected to the results of the tribunal’s decisions.
I wonder if any tribunal members live next to the Scottish fast food outlet in Tecoma.
Ken Barnes, Inverloch.