A COUNCIL decision to close Rye tip appears to have been misconstrued by Mornington Peninsula Shire staff, demonstrated by the wording of a newspaper advertisement seeking expressions of interest for disposing of shire waste from mid-2018.
Councillors resolved on 14 September that the controversial landfill would stop taking waste after 30 June 2018. The advertisement, published on 28 October, stated that the shire was “strongly considering” closing the site.
The News has sought clarification from shire officers but has yet to receive a response.
To compound the confusion, councillors overturned the September decision at their last meeting for the year on 14 December, when dealing with seven expressions of interest from companies responding to the advertisement.
Councillors resolved to continue receiving waste at Rye tip until a viable “alternative waste technology facility” was available. Such a solution has been shire policy for a decade or so.
Any facility, probably a high temperature incinerator as used widely overseas, is not likely to be available for decades and, at a possible cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, would almost certainly be a state government matter.
The December resolution also overturned the intent of the earlier decision, which was to take waste off the peninsula primarily to cut the shire’s carbon footprint by nearly 50 per cent.
The meeting resolved instead to investigate dumping waste at Tyabb.
The December resolution thus eerily anticipated what councillors decided nearly 50 days after the shire advert was published.
The reversal occurred because of voting numbers in the chamber. Cr Tim Wood was ill and absent from the meeting and Cr Lynn Bowden declared a conflict of interest and could not vote, meaning the previous decision was overturned five votes to four.
The motion, an alternative to the staff recommendation – that the matter proceed to tender – was proposed by Cr David Gibb, veteran advocate for keeping peninsula rubbish on the peninsula, and seconded by Cr Antonella Celi.
They were supported by Anne Shaw, Andrew Dixon and David Garnock. Opposed were Graham Pittock, Bev Colomb, Tim Rodgers and Hugh Fraser.
The decision will come back to council on 27 January by way of a rescission motion drafted by Cr Fraser.
Failure to reverse the Gibb-Celi motion would be a massive setback for the shire policy of becoming carbon-neutral, with Rye tip responsible for such a significant proportion of shire carbon emissions.
The reversal vote was not unprecedented and is perfectly legal, even though it has affected a key shire environment and climate change policy.
A similar vote occurred when supporters of the proposed Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre unexpectedly found themselves outnumbered by opponents of the foreshore site.
It marked the beginning of the end for the dreams of Cr Gibb and his supporters, with the death blow being struck when the environment minister of the day withdrew consent for the beachfront location. The SPA project, ironically, is dormant: its location may depend on hot water from an aquifer.
Cr Gibb was a strong advocate for dumping local waste into the picturesque disused Pioneer quarry site on Boundary Rd, Dromana.
This proposal was ultimately rejected by the Environment Protection Authority after vigorous community opposition.