Bandicoot is hearing stirrings from the direction of the beautiful expired Pioneer quarry, now a lake, on the Arthurs Seat escarpment, which Pioneer Concrete sold to Hillview Quarries late last millennium and from which no stone has been extracted since, so far as BC knows.

He has been straining the tiny BC brain to remember the last episode of this once high-profile case. The story so far, as he recalls it, is that after the Environment Protection Authority refused to approve it as a rubbish tip there was talk that Hillview would have to “remediate” the land.

The Oxford Advanced American Dictionary defines “remediation” as “the process of improving something or correcting something that is wrong, especially changing or stopping damage to the environment”.

pioneer-quarryThe EPA decision meant Hillview faced spending possibly millions of dollars on the site to get rid of a veritable forest of pinus radiata on its land and which have spread into the adjoining state park. Other works would also be required.

There was talk of resuscitating the quarry by opening up a next-door site that Hillview owns. Hillview CEO Paul Nitas told residents drilling would be done to establish the stone reserves.

In August 2015 he told a local paper: “While the Boundary Rd site has not been actively quarried in recent years, we know the site has significant reserves.”

Then, at a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing on 28 October this year, arguments were put on whether the quarry’s operating permit had expired, meaning it could not be amended, as Hillview wants.

The community group opposed to more quarrying, the Peninsula Protection Group, was represented at the hearing, as was the shire and, of course, Hillview.

Hillview sought a preliminary hearing this month but VCAT has set the date at 30 January for a hearing to determine if the previous permit has expired. A further hearing could follow, to deal with wider objections.

But before then – and this is where the story really starts! – the matter could come back to council, probably next Monday, 12 December. Bandicoot wonders what Hillview wants from council. 

The quarry opponents are nothing if not well prepared. They, er, rocked up to VCAT on 28 October with briefcases bulging with arguments.

These included (ready to go when needed), these arguments:

One – “According to the Mornington Peninsula Regional Waste Management Plan, published August 1996, pg 54, ‘The quarry is owned and operated by Pioneer Concrete Pty Ltd. The quarry is approaching the end of its life within the confines of the existing site [121 Boundary Rd].

‘Expansion of the quarry is not possible unless it is extended into the adjacent property to the south and east which is owned by Hillview Quarries [115 Boundary Road]. An approval for expansion into adjacent land would be unlikely given its high visual exposure and bushland cover’.”

Two – “The [waste] statement confirms there being little or no commercial viability in further mining and that expanding to the adjacent land would be detrimental to the surrounding environment. It can be implied therefore that the application is simply a means for Hillview Quarries Pty Ltd to avoid its obligation to rehabilitate the site by March 2017, as stipulated within the Planning Permit.”

Three – “Hillview Quarries Pty Ltd has consistently failed to comply with conditions for ongoing site maintenance and weed eradication as stipulated within the Planning Permit. As a result, the site is in disrepair, and widespread damage to the surrounding state park from the spread of noxious weeds has occurred.”

Four – “A resumption of industrial works would be detrimental to the local amenity and the adjoining state park.”

Five – “The planning permit expired 23rd March 2014. Hillview made an application to Mornington Peninsula Shire Council for a 10 year extension on 20th March 2014 (received by Council 25th March 2014). This application was subsequently withdrawn by the applicant. There has not been any commercial activity on the site for nearly 20 years. The permit must be considered expired.”

Bandicoot looks forward to the VCAT stoush in January.