Chairlift gondola clears legal hurdle

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A MAJOR legal obstacle to the $18 million gondola chairlift on Arthurs Seat has been removed with Save Our Seat announcing it will not appeal a planning tribunal decision in the Supreme Court.

Save Our Seat had until last Wednesday to lodge an appeal against the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s December decision to confirm Mornington Peninsula Shire Council’s approval of the ride last June.

Save Our Seat spokeswoman Kylie Greer said “on advice from our barristers, we would be hard pressed to overturn the VCAT decision”.

Ms Greer said deciding not to appeal would not stop SOS from “pursuing political means” to prevent the gondola being built or challenging any subsequent decision by the shire to approve the chairlift consortium’s Bushfire Emergency Plan, which has not been finalised.

“We are extremely disappointed, but our next step is to lobby state government, the CFA and Mornington Peninsula Shire to make sure conditions are strictly adhered to,” she told The News.

The group is concerned that bushfire matters have not been dealt with adequately by authorities.

One of the group’s barristers, Rupert Watters, who worked for the Environment Defenders Office in Victoria and has been involved in several high-profile environment cases in Queensland and Tasmania, has told SOS that VCAT “plainly considered that it did have adequate material to make an assessment of the risk posed by fire and its manageability”.

SOS said it would likely lobby politicians, including new state Environment Minister Lisa Neville, and relevant statutory authorities as Arthurs Seat Skylift had not yet signed a lease with Parks Victoria.

Skylift’s Bushfire Emergency Plan must be approved by the shire council and other organisations.

Late last month, Skylift spokesman Simon McKeon said the consortium expected to sign a 50-year lease with Parks Victoria in the new year.
Mr McKeon said Skylift had been working with people “at the highest level of the CFA for four years”. “The gondola will not run on Code Red and other days of high fire danger,” he said.

The News understands some shire councillors are looking at the gondola proposal. It was approved by one vote mid-2014 and the balance of power on the council has changed since then.

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