CONSERVATION groups are stepping up their campaign against a proposed quarry right next to Arthur’s Seat State Park.
The #SaveArthursSeat petition passed 18,000 signatures last week.
“We have seen an incredible outpouring of community concern about this new quarry proposal,” Michelle de la Coeur, of lead campaigner Peninsula Preservation Group, said.
“We have been inundated with inquiries from people across the Mornington Peninsula and the greater Victorian community wanting to understand its potential impact on the Arthurs Seat State Park biolink, remnant bushland and our native animals, including koalas and other small mammals.
“We have also seen a steep escalation in interest from the Red Hill Consolidated School community with questions raised about potential air quality impacts and longer term community health if the proposal is approved.”
The various groups are concerned that the Ross Trust – which operates Hillview Quarries – is preparing its own environmental effects statement to support its application to dig a new quarry on previously untouched bushland at 115 Boundary Road, Dromana.
Hillview CEO Paul Nitas said of the EES: “We are finalising the last of the existing conditions assessments, which include ecology, the proposed quarry footprint/buffers, landscape and visual.
“The EES assessment studies will continue for another 12 months, which will include possible impact assessments, technical reference group evaluations, community information sessions and then for public exhibition prior to lodgement.
“When complete, it will be heard by Planning Panels Victoria [and] we anticipate a decision in the first quarter of 2022.”
Some parents of children at Red Hill Consolidated School, which is only several hundred metres south of the quarry site as the crow flies, paraded with placards against the proposal last week.
“Ross Trust what about our children’s health”, one placard read. Others read: “Off our seat: No to new quarry”.
The Save Arthurs Seat group says many bush species but especially koalas are under threat from the quarry slated to produce 70 million tonnes of granite over the next 70 years.
The group is urging residents to oppose the quarry beside an existing Hillview – formerly Pioneer – quarry at 121 Boundary Road that they say will destroy natural habitat as well as the biolink that animals traverse to access two sections of the state park.
Jane Fenn said removing the biolink meant animals would be left on land cut off from the state forest that is “too small to sustain life”.
She said the group was facing a huge challenge in mobilising opposition due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We have to get the message across via social media and emails.”
The group is petitioning the Premier Daniel Andrews, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio and Planning Minister Richard Wynne to ask: “Surely we aren’t going to wait until our koalas are on the brink of extinction before we step in to protect them? This is a moment for Victoria to step forward to protect its bushland, koala and other wildlife habitat, and communities.”
The group is also urging supporters to post their opposition on federal environment minister Sussan Ley’s Facebook page. The senator was recently pictured holding a koala.
“The minister’s recent announcement that she would move to protect koalas in NSW, ACT and QLD but not Victoria also struck a chord,” Ms de la Coeur said.
“Victorians don’t understand why our politicians would wait until our koalas are on the brink of extinction before acting. It is within the reach of both the federal government and the state government to stop this proposal now. We need them to take action.”
Peninsula Preservation Group’s Mark Fancett said in 2013 members fought against Hillview’s attempt to convert the empty Pioneer quarry into a rubbish tip. “The proposal was rightfully rejected by the EPA,” he said.
This time around, he said, Hillview had bypassed council in applying directly to the state planning department for approval of [the new] quarry.
Mr Fancett said the proposed quarry would be “five times the size of the existing site” and “will destroy 37 hectares of remnant bushland to open a 43 hectare, 190 metre deep pit for granite mining”.
He said on the group’s website: “It’s on high conservation value bushland nestled in a state park and will destroy the Arthurs Seat landscape.
“It’s in the wrong spot, it’s a stupid idea, and it’s not needed.
“State parks are no place for a quarry. This is about revenue for Hillview.”
The Ross Trust describes itself as a “perpetual charitable trust offering funding to biodiversity conservation – conserving and protecting Victoria’s biodiversity so it is valued by all as part of a healthy and resilient environment”.
Nepean MP Chris Brayne said he “continues to have concerns about this project”.
“It’s currently going through an environmental effects statement which will involve a submissions process, hearings and then the panel will make a recommendation to the minister,” he said.
“The community will be asked to make submissions and I will call on groups and individuals throughout the peninsula to make submissions.”