By Rowan Forster
Liberal MP Gary Blackwood has rallied behind the Bunyip North community’s tireless battle to relocate a super-quarry proposed for their backyard.
Opponents of Hanson Construction’s controversial 34-hectate granite quarry claim they have been held ransom for more than 12 years, with the project threatening their livelihoods.
After meeting with nearby residents, Mr Blackwood said he was concerned by the lack of community consultation – particularly with the Environment Effects Statement (EES) ordered by the Minister for Planning.
The member for Narracan has also been outspoken about the project in parliament, citing questionable integrity in the process so far.
“The community at large do not have faith in the honesty or integrity of Hanson as there have been many incidents of factual errors, half-truths and ongoing attempts to spin situations to the proponent’s advantage,” he said.
“A fair and reasonable representation of the community’s concerns by the proponent is held to be significantly in doubt.”
Mr Blackwood will arrange a meeting between the Mt Cannibal and District Preservation Group and key opposition members in the Victorian Parliament to further address the growing unrest.
The proposed location for the quarry rests under 400 metres from Mount Cannibal and within 1.5 kilometres of 71 homes.
It would see up to 2 million tonnes of granite extracted yearly over a period of 100 years, with 550 truck movements to and from the site on a daily basis.
Hanson Construction and the community are currently locked in a stalemate, with the findings of the EES not expected to be handed down until 2019.
Stop the Bunyip Quarry group secretary David Bywater said it was extremely frustrating that the community has been prevented from weighing in on the EES.
“It was clear to Gary that with the number of houses, number of farms and number of dwellings – it’s just too close, right in the middle of a residential area,” he said.
“He is concerned that we’re not getting representation on the EES committee.
“We’re relying on tainted and spun information from the proponent that comes out of the EES process and we’ve told the Minister personally that we think the EES tool is broken.”
Mr Bywater vowed that the community is far from defeated.
“We’re soon going to launch a very public campaign so that when it does come time, we can speak with some clarity,” he said.
Residents have long voiced their concerns about potential impacts on drinking water, air quality, pollution, local flora and fauna and increased traffic and noise.
The area of land owned by Hanson in Bunyip North is equivalent in size to Melbourne’s CBD.
When initially asked about the community’s involvement in the EES, Hanson’s project development manager Stephanie Salinas assured that residents would be consulted.
“The range of opportunities available for public participation Hanson has proposed to undertake during the EES process will see the community’s involvement in the decision-making process is assured,” she told the Gazette.