THE communities of South Gippsland must unite to stop international waste management giant Veolia from bringing Melbourne’s rubbish to Leongatha South, and stave off a threat which will make “coal seam gas look like nothing”.
Close to 100 people attended a community meeting at the Koonwarra Hall last Wednesday night where ‘Dump the Dump’ (Protect South Gippsland) campaign coordinators Claire Crocker, Ron Wangman and Wendy Reed urged the broader public to oppose the project.
Mr Wangman provided a stark reason as to why anyone along the route should be concerned when he used a wheel measuring tool to demonstrate exactly how long the A-Double trucks proposed to cart the waste here will be.
At more than 30m in length and four metres high, the trucks would dwarf the Koonwarra Hall.
“Every 20 minutes, these monsters will be either going to or coming from the landfill,” he said.
He said the major incident in Korumburra when a fuel tanker crashed into the Top Pub two years ago should provide enough incentive for everyone in that town to sign the petition against the proposal.
Other concerns included ground water issues which Mr Wangman said were not adequately addressed at the Veolia public meeting the night prior.
“Our agricultural viability will be destroyed if our groundwater is contaminated,” Mr Wangman said.
Simon Helps, CEO at Heat2Power, in Melbourne, who lives in Korumburra, agreed.
“It will make coal seam gas look like nothing.”
Mr Helps has years of experience in the energy and waste sectors, and said Veolia’s record was not good when it comes to managing landfills.
The company was fined $8000 this year for odour issues at its Woodlawn facility in New South Wales.
He said fines had also been issued recently for leachate breaches near Brisbane.
“Veolia are running with the line that if they don’t use the quarry at Leongatha South for landfill, someone else will.
“Well, it doesn’t get much worse than
them,” he said.
He said the local community faced a massive task to stop the project, given that it was likely to have been driven by the State Government.
“Veolia wouldn’t have come up with this on its own. There’s pressure in Melbourne for more landfill sites to become available.
“Landowners pay a landfill levy of $200 per annum. A non-landfill levy would cost $300 to $400 and councillors would find that hard to sell.
“Unless someone at the top says there’ll be no more landfills, that pressure will continue,” Mr Helps said.
Ms Crocker said it was imperative, given the pressure, that the community is organised in its opposition.
“Veolia doesn’t have the project bedded down just yet. It’s evolving, so as yet, with no planning permit submitted, we don’t yet know exactly where we need to focus.
“When the application is lodged, that’s when we need to move and move quickly.
“If it’s lodged on Christmas Eve, which is likely, as it will limit the submission process, we have to be sure we’re not caught napping.
“If you don’t put in a submission as an individual, you will have no right to appeal.”
Ms Crocker said petitions have been distributed throughout all local towns, and Gippsland South MP Danny O’Brien and Eastern Region MP Melina Bath are both supporting the cause, raising the issue in Parliament at every opportunity.
Dump the Dump week
Ms Crocker said Dump the Dump Week would be held in November at a date to be confirmed to accelerate the fundraising process.
She expected the matter will head to VCAT, regardless of whether the South Gippsland Shire Council approved or rejected a planning application, and that an adequate legal team would cost tens of thousands of dollars.
“Unless the (Planning) minister calls it in, it will go to VCAT, so we’ll need a war chest.
“If we don’t need it, all the money will be distributed back into community groups across South Gippsland.
“We need stickers, signs and banners to create pressure. We need to be as active and engaged and as annoying as we possibly can.
“The only way we have a chance is to participate. If we want to do something, now is the time.”
We’d prefer Yallourn – Veolia
THE size of the trucks and the route they’ll take to bring Melbourne’s rubbish to the proposed landfill site at Leongatha South is still very much unknown, if last week’s community information session hosted by Veolia was any indication.
In fact, the project manager, Andrew Race, admitted the best site to take 200,000 tonnes of rubbish per annum over 15 years was not Leongatha South at all – it was another quarry at Yallourn.
He said it’s a bigger hole and easier to get to with a dual lane highway all the way.
The only problem is that there’s three years of quarrying still to be completed at the site, which means Veolia wouldn’t have access until 2019, and a new landfill wouldn’t be ready until 2022.
Robyn Rumbelow, a local resident who was chatting to Mr Race at Tuesday evening’s session held at the Leongatha Football Club function rooms, suggested a company such as Veolia would have the funds to buy out the Yallourn quarry operators and expedite the process.
But it seems Veolia, at least, is committed to Leongatha South.
Its proposed truck routes to the landfill from Melbourne included a right turn at Fishers Timber on the Leongatha side of Korumburra, and then to the quarry either via Hillgroves or Outtrim-Leongatha South Roads.
The fact that Hillgroves Road is unsealed for half its length and has a dangerous entry onto Bass Highway for large trucks, didn’t seem to be an issue for Veolia’s experts who are exploring alternatives to the preferred route which is via Koonwarra.
The bends in Korumburra’s main street could also deter Veolia from using monstrous A-Double trucks (30m-plus in length) to bring in 20 loads a day to South Gippsland.
Smaller trucks, and more of them, or another route via Wonthaggi and Inverloch will also be explored.
There were many questions put to Veolia’s experts including Chris Alexander (landfill) and Clair Raper from Golder Associates who was there to discuss groundwater.
Max Spedding spoke about state planning issues and David Hawkins answered questions about community engagement.
“The purpose of today is to address people’s concerns. Many think that this is a fait accompli, but it’s not,” Mr Hawkins said.
“We’ve had quite a lot of one on one meetings and we attended the community leadership forum, but this is the first time we’ve met with the community like this.
“We want to make sure this is a fair process and people have all the information they need.
“We’re establishing a community reference group and we’ve opened that up for people to join. The group will meet once every two months or more if necessary.”