SAVE Arthurs Seat supporters are cheering a decision by The Ross Trust to abandon its bid to dig a quarry on the Pioneer site at Dromana.
The controversial plan, under which Hillview Quarries would extract stone from a 43 hectare site on the north face of Arthurs Seat, became a rallying point for environmentalists determined to protect one of the last pockets of natural bushland on the Mornington Peninsula.
Now, after eight years the battle – first against a tip on the site in 2013, and then the quarry – has been won.
“This is a win for people power, it’s a win for the environment, it’s a win for the Victorian community as a whole,” Peninsula Preservation Group president Dr Mark Fancett said.
“This was a crazy idea from the start. It was hypocritical for the trust to be the developer of a massive quarry on bushland … [while] being a charity with a mission of protecting biodiversity.”
The Ross Trust last week glossed over the back down, announcing it was planning to “explore a rehabilitation option” for the Boundary Road site “consistent with the prescriptive rehabilitation requirements mandated by the Victorian government”. It said it would “no longer seek to re-establish a fully operational quarry” there.
Hillview Quarries CEO Paul Nitas said that as part of the environmental effects statement (EES) process the company would “work alongside the community, stakeholders, and the state to explore how best to rehabilitate” the site for future uses.
“The footprint … will change,” he said. “Its landscape, while picturesque, is not all undisturbed natural and native bushland. Rehabilitating it to be safe, stable, and to meet the full legislative requirements for use for generations to come will require substantial work,” Mr Nitas said.
Ross Trust chair Jeremy Kirkwood criticised the “heightened negative campaign” by the Save Arthurs Seat group.
“The decision … was made because the trust is increasingly concerned that the heightened negative campaign against the proposed quarry was threatening the good work of the trust and the organisations it funds,” he said.
“Our work is being undermined by sometimes threatening, dangerous, vitriolic and misleading behaviour. We cannot allow our staff, grantees, and supporters to … be exposed to this. It’s not right and it needs to stop.”
Nepean MP Chris Brayne said the decision showed the R E Ross Trust had “listened to the community”.
“This has been a long journey for the Dromana, Arthurs Seat and Red Hill communities,” Mr Brayne said.
“The Save Arthurs Seat team led by Mark and Michelle Fancett, alongside many other locals, dedicated innumerable hours, resources and a tireless energy to fight this proposal.
“The Mornington Peninsula is special. It must be protected. There has to come a time when we say no to developing the peninsula in an unsustainable way.
“In my mind, we are well past that time. We have to protect our peninsula for the long term.”
Mr Brayne said results of a poll on his Facebook page was “emphatic”, with 97 per cent of the more than 4000 votes being opposed to the quarry.
Mornington Peninsula Shire mayor Cr Anthony Marsh said the “long-running and divisive issue … has caused a fair amount of angst in our community”.
“Council shared many of the community’s concerns and felt this proposal was out of step with our commitment to protect the environment and steer the peninsula towards a more sustainable future,” he said.
“I would like to congratulate the community on its campaign, and I thank [Mr] Brayne and Flinders MP Greg Hunt for their efforts to support the community against this proposal.”
Cr Marsh said the shire “looked forward to working with Ross Trust and Hillview Quarries on how best to rehabilitate the site for future use”.
Cr David Gill said the “dedicated hard work and grass roots efforts [of quarry opponents] have now paid off”.
“They brought others, including initially reticent politicians, on board with their ability to raise the issues and gain community support.”