LOCALS campaigning to stop mining in remnant forest between Lang Lang and Grantville have hit out at the consultation process around the gazetting of land in South Gippsland for sand mining.
The designated Strategic Extractive Resource Area (SERA) includes significant areas adjoining the Adams Creek Nature Conservation Reserve, west of Nyora.
The project is designed to provide “certainty of supply” to the mining industry by preventing incompatible uses, such as housing in adjoining land.
SERA was a pilot project for South Gippsland Shire and Wyndham City, and provides a framework for defining the locations of future strategic state resources.
The pilot project was announced in early 2018.
From May to July 2020, the state government undertook a public consultation process.
They received more than 300 submissions, with feedback provided by statutory authorities, local governments, landowners, community organisations and interested individuals.
However, in August this year, stakeholders were notified that all submissions were reviewed, and a number of refinements made to the recommendations that the Minister for Planning subsequently adopted in amendment VC196.
Save Western Port Woodlands member Stewart Bisset questioned why there was no panel hearing to consider submissions.
“It leaves you wondering if they did the SERA consultation in order to avoid a public panel hearing, where community groups and the public would have been able to be more involved in the process and comment on the final provisions,” he said.
Mr Bisset added environmental and community groups were noticeably absent from further “targeted consultation” that occurred with the Victorian Planning Authority, South Gippsland Shire Council, Cardinia Shire Council, Wyndham City Council and industry groups after submissions closed.
Amid the disappointment, there was some good news for those fighting to preserve the forest corridor.
An appeal by locals, including a petition signed by 550 people, led to the Adams Creek Nature Reserve being exempted from the SERA provisions.
A DELWP report had stated: “The extent of SRO mapping has been changed to reflect considerable community concern about applying new planning controls to land in the Adams Creek Nature Reserve.”
The SRO1 designation will still apply to quarries currently operating in the reserve under an approved work authority but will be removed from all other parts of the Adams Creek Nature Reserve.
Mr Bisset, who started the petition, said it was a significant win for the community.
He also submitted a Freedom of Information application to discover other locations under consideration in the SERA project.
In response to the Sentinel-Times, a government spokesperson said: “A SERA is not an approval for a quarry, all proposals for new and expanded quarries will still need to be assessed via rigorous processes including the relevant council’s Planning Scheme, as well as a range of environmental, water and cultural heritage legislation and regulations.”