By Kyra Gillespie
A new advisory panel may present a further roadblock for energy giants AGL and APA’s controversial pipeline project, marking another small victory for farmers across Cardinia and Casey.
On top of a rigorous, independent Environmental Effects Statement issued by Planning Minister Richard Wynne, the 56 kilometre pipeline proposal will now also be scrutinised by a Technical Reference Group which will comprise of state government agencies and local councils.
Along with assisting in the preparation of the EES, which will investigate the potential environmental, community and cultural ramifications of the project, the TRG will have input into the policies, scoping requirements, study design and responses to issues that arise from the EES.
A Cardinia Shire Council officer will be part of the TRG and will be campaigning on behalf of council to have the pipeline run along road reserves where possible, rather than through private farmland.
The proposed gas pipeline, which would run from Hastings through to Pakenham, has long been a source of controversy as it is set to impact 28 properties on 18.7 kilometres of private, green wedge and agricultural land.
“We’re talking about 56 kilometres of pipeline, that’s a huge project,” Cr Michael Schilling said at council’s February 18 meeting.
“We need to take a look at the EES to get a real sense of what the project is about.”
“To have the pipeline realigned to run along road reserves makes a lot more sense,” Mayor Cr Graeme Moore added.
The EES and TRG input could stall development several years, even if the pipeline passes the process.
Max Hobson, a Rythdale farmer and former civil engineer who devised an alternate pipeline route, described it as a significant victory for the community when speaking with the Gazette late last year.
“It’s our first big win,” he said.
“It shows that all is not lost, considering it looked like they were going to bulldoze it through with no questions asked.”
At the end of the panel process, all the EES reports will be placed on exhibition where community will be able to make submissions and be heard at an independent panel hearing. The panel will then submit a finalised report to the Planning Minister for consideration.