State government weighs proposal for giant quarry in green wedge zone
Advertisement

State government weighs proposal for giant quarry in green wedge zone

Mark Fancett, Michelle de la Coeur and their daughter Alex Fancett explore the proposed quarry site.

Mark Fancett, Michelle de la Coeur and their daughter Alex Fancett explore the proposed quarry site.

Photo: Joe Armao

A forested hillside in a green wedge zone on Melbourne’s southern fringe could be cleared and mined for an estimated 70-year supply of granite to feed the city’s insatiable demand for raw materials for roads and housing.

The Andrews government is weighing up a proposal to dig a 43-hectare, 200-metres deep quarry on undeveloped land next to the Arthurs Seat state park on the Mornington Peninsula.

A much smaller quarry on the privately owned site has been dormant since 1998 and is filled with water. The surrounding bushland has been assessed as good habitat for several vulnerable native species.

The owner’s proposal to convert the old quarry into a tip was rejected by the state’s Environment Protection Authority five years ago.

Loading
Advertisement

The owner, the benevolent RE Ross Trust, has applied to expand the quarry to more than five times its current size, and has sought planning approval to clear 38 hectares of bushland.

It argues the hillside is the last remaining unexploited granite resource on the Mornington Peninsula and would be a source of 70 million tonnes of raw materials for Melbourne’s booming south-east.

A bird's-eye view of the proposed quarry site in Dromana.

A bird's-eye view of the proposed quarry site in Dromana.

Photo: Joe Armao

Victoria’s Treasurer, Tim Pallas, has admitted that the state is under pressure to find new sources of raw materials.

In April he blamed a shortage of rock for a $50 million blowout in the cost of the Hoddle Street upgrade project.

Loading

The state’s demand for resources such as clay, sand and stone is expected to double between now and 2050, a government strategy document says, while many expected sources of the raw materials have not come to fruition due to bureaucratic delays.

The concerns about a costly shortage of raw materials have been echoed by industry, which argues too many quarry sites on the urban fringe are under pressure due to urban encroachment.

Ken Slattery, chief executive of Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia, said it was ideal to have raw materials for infrastructure such as roads, houses and schools close to where they are needed.

“The further out you go, the greater the cost to transport them back to where they’re needed,” Mr Slattery said.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has determined an environment effects statement is needed for the proposal.

Surrounded on two sides by the Arthurs Seat state park, the bushland is of “moderate to high” conservation value, an ecology report for the site states.

It is habitat for several vulnerable native species, including the grey goshawk, powerful owl, swamp skink, glossy grass skink and southern toadlet.

Quarrying has occurred in this part of the Mornington Peninsula for about 80 years, despite it being zoned in one of Melbourne’s green wedges.

Victoria’s planning laws do not prohibit quarrying in a green wedge zone.

However, the Mornington Peninsula Shire council is angered by the proposal, accusing the owner of bypassing council planning processes and going straight to the state government.

Mayor Bryan Payne said the quarry was an alarming proposal, because it would be detrimental to local biodiversity and undermine the shire’s green wedge management plan.

“The proposal requires a cut 190 metres deep into the side of Arthurs Seat, with very little regard to flora and fauna, landscape, landslide and any other inhabitants of the southern peninsula,” Cr Payne said.

Mark Fancett is president of the Peninsula Preservation Group, which campaigned against the failed tip plan.

He said the bushland was an important, undisturbed refuge for native flora and fauna.

“The vegetation is quite unique; it’s one of the last remaining biolinks on the peninsula,” Mr Fancett said.

But Liberal MP for Mornington Martin Dixon said the proposal was worthy of examination, especially given the trust that owns the site was expected to use its quarrying profits to help pay for community projects.

The trust has donated almost $110 million to community causes since its inception almost 50 years ago, through the sale of raw materials from its quarries.

But it says in its proposal for the project that its rock reserves are diminishing, putting the trust and its benevolent works at risk.

An Andrews government spokeswoman said everyone would get a chance to have their say on the project during the environment effects statement.