By Bonny Burrows
Furious residents have slammed the company behind the controversial Bunyip North quarry proposal for ignoring their concerns.
At an emotionally charged public meeting on 23 March, residents of Bunyip, Garfield and surrounding communities met with Hanson Construction Materials, expecting to have an open discussion.
Instead, residents have slammed the meeting as a “waste of time”.
Mount Cannibal and District Preservation Group treasurer David Bywater said Bunyip Hall was “chock-a-block full” of residents wanting an update on the 134-hectare granite quarry, mooted for a site about 500 metres from local icon Mount Cannibal.
“But then the new project manager came in and said it was decided the content of the meeting was not about community information, but the process of the EES (Environmental Effects Statement),” Mr Bywater said.
“We said, ‘that’s OK as long as you answer questions’, which they agreed to.”
However, the open discussion was short lived, with tempers quickly flaring as Hanson deflected questions.
Dodging community concerns, which included the proposed quarry’s close proximity to houses, loss of water supply and possible health risks from the silica dusk – a carcinogenic by-product of mining granite, Mr Bywater said the company provided no answers and instead spruiked the EES process.
He said the community was disappointed by the meeting.
“Not one question that was put – and there would have been 30 plus questions put – not one was successfully, honestly or completely answered,” Mr Bywater said.
“It seems the whole point of the meeting was for Hanson to tick off one of the requirements of the EES which is to engage with the community.”
The EES was ordered by State Planning Minister Richard Wynne in 2015 to identify the large-scale project’s significant environmental effects and propose measures to reduce these.
According to those in attendance, Hanson told the estimated 100-person crowd that it was just beginning the statement – due to take two years – “however there are no red flags”.
Mr Bywater said he just about fell over.
“How can they say there are no red flags when they haven’t done the EES?” he said.
Accusing the company of trying to “water down” the environmental impacts, Mr Bywater said it was pretty clear “if you dig a big hole there’s going to be problems”, particularly at the planned location – the former home of the Tonimbuk Equestrian Centre.
There were 71 homes within one and a half kilometres of the site and another 10 within half a kilometre, and a string of wildlife which would be impacted by the development, Mr Bywater said, yet the company didn’t seem to care.
However, Hanson Construction Materials Project Development Manager Stephanie Salinas said Thursday’s discussion was productive and that it fulfilled its purpose to advise the community of the EES process.
She said Hanson was dedicated to working with the community.
“The information provided by the community will be utilised to develop the Community Engagement Plan and inform the Technical Reference Group of issues of community concern,” Ms Salinas said.
The plan would ensure the community is kept advised of the EES process status, and “will include a range of activities including community meetings and information available on the Hanson website”.