Wonthaggi highball stadium … dumped. Cowes Cultural Centre redevelopment … dumped. Wonthaggi wind blades art project … dumped. Inverloch dump … saved.
Cr Les Larke, in particular, has become the champion of financial parsimony, rejecting the idea that it’s reasonable for councils to borrow money even for projects of clear inter-generational benefit such as swimming pools and cultural centres.
But one project has been noticeably immune from the financial scrutiny brought to bear on such fripperies.
The Inverloch transfer station will live on, with councillors this week responding to a vigorous and sometimes hysterical campaign to keep it open. Who would have imagined that people had such a passionate attachment to their local tip?
When councillors voted last year to close the Inverloch transfer station in September this year, for financial and environmental reasons, it prompted scores of letters to the local papers, a rally in Inverloch and the formation of the Bass Coast Ratepayers and Residents Association (BCRRA).
Last November, following the election of the new council, a petition containing 618 signatures requested the council to rescind its decision to close the transfer station.
The council went through the motions by calling for a report on the implications of keeping it open. The report estimated the cost of operating the transfer station for the current three days a week at $215,000 in 2017-18, with an estimated $500,000 to bring it up to current best practice operating standards for a transfer station.
But financial matters were never going to change anything. On Wednesday, the new councillors voted to keep the transfer station open, to loud applause from the crowded public gallery. Following the vote, jubilant groups gathered outside to celebrate, hailing the heroes of the Battle for Inverloch Tip, BCRRA president Kevin Griffin and Keith Godridge, the former engineer for the Shire of Woorayl, who designed the original landfill that operated on the same site from 1977 to 1985.
And there’s the rub for the legion of lovers of the Inverloch transfer station. The stay of execution for the transfer station may be temporary as the Environment Protection Authority is expected to serve a pollution abatement notice on the council within months ordering it to rehabilitate the tip site.
The primary concern is stormwater discharge from the landfill into Screw Creek. The EPA will assess the rehabilitation work undertaken at the site when the tip closed in 1985. Modern rehabilitation of landfill areas is much more demanding than it was 30 years ago and councils are legally required to rehabilitate closed landfills as directed by the EPA.
The cost of rehabilitating the landfill site is unknown at this stage, although the council report stated it could be in the region of $1 million.