By VINNIE RODI

A PROPOSAL to re-establish a concrete reprocessing and materials recycling operation in Koorlong has been refused by Mildura Rural City Councillors after 19 objections were lodged by nearby residents.

The site, located two kilometres from the Koorlong township on the Cowra Avenue Extension, is owned by Lower Murray Water (LMW) and is currently utilised by Water Excavations Pty Ltd.

Water Excavations had previously operated a similar materials recycling, stockpiling and waste reprocessing site at the LMW-owned land, securing a 12-month permit from Council in 2015.

That application did not receive any objections due to the short-term nature of the permit, with the site also containing stockpiles of unprocessed concrete following the decommissioning of channels as part of the Sunraysia Modernisation Project.

After the initial 12-month permit reached its expiry date, Waters Excavation applied to extend the permit to enable the ongoing use of the site, which Council granted. However, a Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) Hearing held last month found that Council had not properly notified local residents of its intention to extend the permit, with the permit subsequently revoked by VCAT deputy president Helen Gibson AM.

Waters Excavation opted to submit a new permit application to Council following last month’s VCAT decision, and was once again looking to utilise the site for its operations, this time looking to expand its operations to a 20-acre area.

Nineteen objections were received by Council, with concerned residents highlighting fears that asbestos may be crushed on site, dust issues, heavy vehicle movement in the area, noise issues, damage to Cowra Avenue extension and vibration issues.

Council’s planning department recommended that Councillors approve the permit subject to a number of conditions, however Cr Max Thorburn instead moved to reject the permit at Council’s Ordinary Meeting on Tuesday night.

Cr Thorburn said that after hearing objections from concerned residents, investigating the site, and hearing from both parties at Council’s recent Planning Forum, he was convinced that the site was not appropriate for such an operation.

“The dust generated from this operation, and the close proximity to nearby residents and the Piscioneri family, who grow wine grapes immediately adjacent to the site, means I cannot support this,” he said. “I do not believe that the dust generated on the site can be contained, and there are health issues to consider.”

Cr Simon Clemence, ABOVE,  seconded Cr Thorburn’s motion to refuse the permit, and said that photographs presented to Councillors had clearly shown dust clouds “200-feet high on a still day.”

“There are health issues to consider here,” he said. “Concrete is known to contain a substance called ‘silica’, which if crushed and inhaled can prove dangerous.

“I also believe that this is not the right site for this operation – it’s in the wrong place.”

Cr Thorburn said he also believed that Council’s decision to refuse the permit “would not be the end of it”, saying the proponents would likely challenge Council’s decision through VCAT.

“I personally don’t like seeing ratepayers having to contest Council decisions at VCAT, and I feel that it is only right that the people who will directly benefit from this operation be the ones to challenge, if they choose to,” he said.

“I also agree that this is not the right area for this site.”

The Mildura Weekly contacted Waters Excavation for further comment but did not receive a reply.