Bass Coast Shire Council has expressed shock at the Planning Minister’s decision to approve a massive expansion of a Grantville sand mine despite more than 70 objections.
Richard Wynne’s approval this week permits Dandy Premix to clear 13 hectares of vegetation in a Western Port Woodlands biolink for a new pit and to massively expand its current pit, including digging below the water table.
As part of the planning permit conditions, the company will be permitted to increase truck movements from 120 to 240 a day; to operate for longer hours – until 2am on weekdays and 10pm on Saturdays despite residents living within 300 metres of the site.
“This decision runs counter to the Distinctive Areas and Landscapes objective of revegetation and protecting native vegetation.
“Dandy Premix has not met the revegetation requirements of the current permit and the wildlife corridor that was to be planted in 2013 is still not complete.
“The environment is our economy in Bass Coast, however this decision by the State Government shows that it does not put the same value on the environment as it does on the economy, which is incredibly concerning,”
Dandy Premix’s application drew 73 objections before the Planning Minister called in the application in November 2020 at the request of the company, effectively sidelining the council.
In its own submission, the council argued that any clearing of vegetation should be contingent on revegetation areas being established to a level adequate to serve as a biolink as per the company’s original agreement with the council.
An independent planning panel heard submissions by the applicant and objectors last March-April and presented their report to the Minister in June. Mr Wynne sat on the report for 10 months before rubber stamping it this week.
Save Western Port Woodlands (SWPW) spokesperson Tim O’Brien said there could be no justification for removing a crucial biolink in rare coastal forest to get sand when abundant supplies were available elsewhere.
“The Daniel Andrews Government talks tough on protecting the environment, but it’s missing in action when it comes to putting reasonable limits on a destructive industry.
“This makes a joke of the community’s wishes. We will be calling on Bass Coast Shire Council and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to be a lot more vigilant this time round in ensuring the company actually meets its obligations.”
Mr O’Brien said the Minister’s decision disregards the warnings in an expert report by Professor Dick Wettenhall on the risks of sand washing releasing toxic effluents into sensitive aquatic ecosystems, including the Western Port tidal mudflats, barely 300 metres away from Dandy Premix.
The increase in truck movements is a major concern for SWPW members Gil Smith and Janice Hughes in Deep Creek Road.
“We’re already copping about 30 trucks an hour going past our place,” Mr Smith said. “It starts early in the morning. Another 120 a day is only going to increase the noise.”
Sand dust blowing from Dandy Premix was also a major problem for nearby residents over the past summer. Ms Hughes said the dust exacerbated her lung problems and sometimes made it difficult for her to breathe. She cleans surfaces every day and has to wash her car windscreen every time before she can drive.
Several objectors raised the dust issue but the panel accepted company assurances that dust treatment is adequate. However it also recommends an investigation to determine the potential risk of exposure to respirable crystalline silica, which can cause an incurable lung disease.
Mr O’Brien said the Dandy Premix decision was an indication of the Government’s determination that nothing should be permitted to obstruct sand mining, even in the Bass Coast Distinctive Area and Landscape.
“It seems like this cossetted industry is more valuable than not just the environment but also Bass Coast’s much more economically beneficial tourism industry and even residents themselves.
“The Planning Minister is supposed to weigh up a balance for the community between development and the environment and social issues. We seem to be going backwards – this approval clearly demonstrates a one-eyed look at the situation, with virtually no positives to balance the negatives.”
Catherine Watson is a member of Save western Port Woodlands.