There was no slip up – VCAT


THE state planning tribunal did not make an “accidental slip” in its Arthurs Seat gondola permit conditions, as claimed by the Save Our Seat protest group, and no correction will be made, the tribunal has decided.

SOS queried what appeared to be a contradiction in one condition the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal placed on the contentious cable car project.

In  condition 39, VCAT stated an emergency plan must be approved “prior to the commencement of the use” of the ride, that is, after construction was completed.

Elsewhere it stated that the plan should be approved “before the development commences as there may be matters … that require refinements to other components of the proposal”.

In its response to the SOS query, VCAT stated that it “does not consider that there has been an accidental slip in relation to its order”.

“The conditions work together including condition 1(e) that requires the permit holder [Skylift] to show how compliance with DEPI conditions 40–61 is to be achieved before plans are endorsed.  Those conditions link back to Condition 39,” the VCAT response stated.

To the law’s “reasonable man”, the VCAT letter falls short of clearing up confusion about the issue SOS had raised. If anything, it compounds the confusion because:

  • Condition 39 states: “Prior to the commencement of the use, an emergency management plan … must be submitted to and approved by the Responsible Authority” (that is, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council).
  • The VCAT letter points to its condition 1(e), which refers to requirements imposed by DEPI (now the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning). None of these conditions can be read as supporting the VCAT assertion, that they clarify when the emergency plan must be approved.
  • Condition 41 mentions the bushfire emergency plan but only in passing.
  • Condition 43 refers to “The requirements for an emergency management plan set out in conditions 39 and 40”. This appears to actually reinforce condition 39 – that the emergency plan is not required until the gondola is built and is about to begin operating.
  • Condition 50 specifies that a “defendable space plan” – not a bushfire/emergency management plan – must be approved “prior to the commencement of works”.
  • Conditions 53 to 58 set out requirements for a vegetation management plan, which appears to have no relationship to either the bushfire or emergency management plans.

None of the other three DEPI-imposed conditions on which VCAT relied refer to matters relevant to condition 39.

Perhaps Save Our Seat should now write to VCAT asking it to clarify its clarification.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 1 September 2015


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