Restaurant to fight on over wastewater

Another round: Melissa Goffin and husband Martin, from Red Gum BBQ, and their daughter Violet. Picture: Supplied

A RED Hill restaurateur is reconciled to spending as much as $200,000 fighting a Mornington Peninsula Shire Council knock-back of an application for a permit to alter a septic tank system.

Red Gum BBQ proprietor Melissa Goffin calls the shire “short-sighted” and “infuriating” for refusing her permission to dispose of what the shire estimates will be more than 5000 litres of wastewater a day from the Arthurs Seat Road venue after patronage is increased to 140 seats. 

Ms Goffin said the greywater would be suitable for a neighbouring orchard, on Nash’s Lane, which she said was in desperate need of water for its crops, or be trucked off site on a long-term basis.

She said similar council planning restrictions over the years had been “detrimental to hundreds of small businesses – the sort of businesses desperately needed on the Mornington Peninsula”.

Her decision to appeal the council’s refusal of her planning application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last June had cost $50,000 – a bill exacerbated by the extra tens of thousands spent on legal and expert services, she said. 

Vowing to continue the fight she said the cost of another VCAT appeal – which she is determined to pursue – could take the total bill to $200,000. 

Shire officers – charged by VCAT with taking a “holistic review” of car parking and wastewater issues – stated in last month’s council agenda that as reticulated sewerage was not available at the venue its wastewater had to be treated and retained on site. This was one of the factors the council accepted when ratifying the officers’ decision to refuse the permit application.

Ms Goffin and husband Martin have run the Red Gum BBQ restaurant for the past two and a half years and say it is a “fantastic business – exactly the kind of business the shire wants”.

“We are one of hundreds of businesses in the shire that love being here but the biggest issue we have is [working with] the shire. They need to align their beliefs with business growth but their immediate response is ‘no’ to everything.

She knew other small business owners were “at the end of their emotional and financial ropes” – a situation worsened by the shire being “totally over-burdened by the sheer volume of planning applications”. 

“The council did not work with us to find a solution – we were put in the too-hard basket,” she said. 

Ms Goffin said the EPA favoured re-use and reclamation of waste water such as she was proposing and refuted claims by council officers that hand-wash water was “sewage”.

“It’s not – it is Class B water, suitable for commercial use and the council needs to look at innovative solutions to this issue.”

Officers said the shire’s environmental health team had “assessed the septic tank permit application against the criteria outlined in the act, the shire’s wastewater management policy, state environment protection policies, and the EPA septic tanks code of practice”. The rejected application was also peer reviewed by a “suitably qualified wastewater consultant engaged by the shire”. 

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 7 May 2019


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