By Gabriella Payne
A proposed expansion to the Dandy Premix sand mine in Grantville has been rejected by the Bass Coast Shire Council and referred to the state Government for a panel hearing in March, after being met with widespread criticism and objections from locals and environmental groups alike.
At the council meeting on Wednesday 17 February, Bass Coast Shire Councillors voted against the proposal after receiving 73 objections to the sand mine’s expansion – which many fear will cause harmful damage to the surrounding environment.
Instead, an alternative motion was proposed by the council, which would see Dandy Premix need to adhere to strict conditions if the planned expansion goes ahead.
This motion will be submitted in writing to the Victorian Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, and form the basis for the council’s submission for the panel hearing, being held on Monday 22 March.
Tim O’Brien, a spokesperson for the Save the Western Port Woodlands (SWPW) group said that it was good to see the Bass Coast Shire Council taking a stance against the proposed mine expansion, stating that it was “environmental vandalism” to be removing forests to make way for a larger mine.
“The Bass Coast region has just one last remaining forest, running north to south along Western Port’s eastern coastal foothills,” Mr O’Brien said.
“It forms a vital biolink in a fragile ecosystem and it’s being ripped out for sand for Melbourne.”
Mr O’Brien said that the SWPW group were “against sand mining in that forest corridor full stop” as the area is home to many rare and endangered species of flora and fauna, including the southern brown bandicoot and the powerful owl.
“Our group, Save The Western Port Woodlands, thinks it is time to stand up to this government and the mentality that it can plunder our natural areas and rip the guts out of this remnant coastal forest for bridges and car parks for Melbourne,” he said.
“We are implacably opposed to this mine expanding its operation. Not only will the environment suffer, but the community of Grantville are being asked to cope with an extra 120 trucks a day.
It’s greatly concerning, quite unfair and just not acceptable,” Mr O’Brien said.
Mr O’Brien said that although the SWPW group “don’t want to compromise” on protecting the forest, the group thought that “the council’s position is a preferable position to what the mine is currently seeking”.
“There is evidence of a lot of work and strategic thinking in the alternative motion and position adopted by Councillors,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Though the fight is far from won, Bass Coast Council has made the right decision in rejecting Dandy Premix’s plans to expand its Grantville sand mining operation.”
The Gazette contacted Dandy Premix with detailed questions regarding the next steps of the proposal, however a spokesperson declined to comment.
“Specifically, Dandy Premix will not be making any media, or public comment about the council’s decision to oppose permit 120388-1 application at the PPV panel hearing scheduled to commence 22 March 2021,” they said.
“More generally, we do not believe media comment by Dandy Premix, as applicant in the matter is appropriate in advance of the panel hearing; in the best interests of conduct of the panel hearing; including of all parties appearing before the panel; nor would it be acceptable in the context of the ministerial decision making process,” the spokesperson added.
Dandy Premix’s original proposal aimed to amend its existing permit conditions to allow for “the deepening of the existing fine – medium sand extraction area to a depth of 88m and extend the area of extraction to the east”, which is where the forest that the SWPW group are fighting for is located.
Mr O’Brien said that he and other members of the Save the Western Port Woodlands group would be taking their objections to the Minister’s panel in March and continue fighting to protect the natural environment.
“Regional Victoria is not here to be plundered for the convenience of Melbourne. Our community must be heard on these issues that impact so heavily on the fragile Bass Coast environment,” he said.