BASS Coast Council is calling on the State Government to start consulting the council and community on the future of sand mining in the shire.
Councillors have warned of the impact on residents of thousands of sand truck movements a day within the shire if the industry continues to expand into designated Extractive Industry Interest Areas.
There is currently no opportunity for the council or community to have a say on what areas can be mined and growing frustration that the State Government and ministers will not engage with the council on the issue.
Councillors voted unanimously* at Wednesday's council meeting to ask the Victorian Ministers for Environment and Climate Action, Resources and Planning to visit the Western Port Woodlands and meet with councillors to discuss their protection.
In a motion moved by Cr Leticia Laing, they declared “sand mining is not an appropriate land use within our delicate, environmentally fragile vegetated areas and within close proximity to our residential communities”.
The council will seek a moratorium on new permits and approvals for sand mining in the shire until the community and council have been consulted on appropriate extraction areas.
It will also write to the Federal Environment Minister Tanya Pliberseck highlighting the impact of sand mining on Western Port RAMSAR Wetlands and requesting intervention to ensure that mining is Bass Coast is conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999.
“Do we need to wait until local native animals are on the verge of extinction before action is taken? How can our community laud itself as an ecotourism hotspot when this mining continues to expand on our doorstep?”
Cr Laing noted that some of the work authorities were up to 35 years old. “The Extractive Industry Interest Areas within the shire are not what the community has signed up for.
“It is the Victorian Government who designates the area for sand extraction and regulates the industry through the Earth Resources Regulation, a department that appears to be understaffed and under-resourced
“Council should hold a seat at the table when it comes to decisions being made that will affect the Bass Coast community.
“It’s time for all state politicians and wannabe politicians to get behind the rhetoric and protect the environment, landscape and lifestyle of Bass Coast.”
“I believe we should be working with the industry to get better outcomes. I do support advocating to the State Government to do better policing of these work authorities, and resource the Earth Resources Regulation adequately to deal with all the open work authorities. Where there is evidence there are operators doing the wrong thing the government should throw the book at them
“I think council needs a seat at the table – it’s very important the Government knows how we feel and gives credence to our views on the natural environment. The Government needs to sit up and take notice that this is an important issue in Bass Coast.”
“We’ve been told we can expect trucks every couple of minutes travelling on the highway because they need this resource in Melbourne. We’ve got a duty of care to Victoria to provide resources but Victoria also has a duty of care to Bass Coast to maintain what we‘ve got down here.”
Cr Laing said the council had made its position clear in its submission on the draft Statement of Planning Policy for the Distinctive Areas and Landscapes Plan.
“Whether the land is private or public should be irrelevant if our community continues to experience the pressures of thousands of truck movements on our roads, the dust and watching their favourite woodlands turn into massive open quarries.
“We are still to have any minister attend and look at the impacts of sand mining. This motion asks ministers to be genuine in their concern about what is about to happen to one of our last portions of remnant forest in the southern-most part of Victoria. It also asks for that engagement to be transparent.”
* Cr Brett Tessari declared an interest and took no part in the discussion or vote. The National Party candidate for the seat of Bass in the upcoming state election, he has previously called for action to stop the clearing of woodlands.