Protestors rubbish dump idea
OPPONENTS of a landfill proposed for Leongatha South stood in solidarity against Veolia’s proposal at a waste management forum in Leongatha on Thursday afternoon.
The forum was part of a Gippsland Waste and Recovery Resource Group (GWRRG) initiative to develop a 10 year waste management plan for Gippsland.
GWRRG told residents it is in the process of assessing Gippsland’s landfill air space and whether there is a need for a new landfill site.
Veolia is planning to turn an exhausted quarry on Whitelaws Track into a landfill servicing Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, resulting in the prospect of 20 trucks delivering rubbish daily, and accessing the landfill via Leongatha and Koonwarra.
The proposal has been met with widespread opposition from the community. Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien recently a petition signed by nearly 1400 people against the proposal to State Parliament.
The majority of residents at the community forum were opposed to the Veolia landfill and demanded answers from GWRRG.
Members of the protest group Dump the Dump said they wanted strong evidence of the need for the landfill and claimed Veolia was advancing its own interests.
Dump the Dump spokesperson Wendy Reed said although only a few members of the official group were present at the meeting, it was an opportunity for the community to rally against the proposal and have their opinions heard.
Some of their leading concerns were location – as the proposed site would be near an active quarry – flooding, and blasting.
Ms Reed said she needed to process the information given to her at the forum before she could provide a comment on behalf of Dump the Dump.
GWRRG executive officer Matthew Peake said, “The concerns of the community are many and varied. I’d categorise the understanding of our role as one of the biggest issues.
“We will assess the need for landfill and what’s best for the area. Veolia has brought its plan to the table but we don’t just go to the first application. We take a market approach and look for the best option.”
Veolia engineering manager Andrew Race and general manager for resource recovery Tom Wetherill attended the forum to get a grasp of the Gippsland process and find out where their proposal fits with the waste management plan.
Mr Race said the Veolia landfill would save ratepayer costs, if it were to be given the green light, as South Gippsland Shire Council may be able to use the landfill.
“Smaller landfills are expensive to run and difficult to operate to the appropriate environmental requirements,” he said.
“Not only will the Veolia landfill reduce the cost to ratepayers, it will take risks away and improve environmental outcomes because we know how to run it properly.”
However, residents still harbour concerns about the proximity of the landfill to their homes, trucks damaging the highway on the transport route, flooding and the impacts on tourism.
“These are all typical concerns when something like this is presented in a neighbourhood. The concerns mainly relate to amenity and safety. It is our job to determine whether these plans are appropriate,” Mr Peake said.
Mr Wetherill said although the Veolia project had sparked anxiety in the community, it would follow the best practices and meet the various environmental requirements.
“At the end of the day waste needs to go somewhere, but we are here to listen to the Gippsland group and find out where we go from here,” he said.
Mr Peake said alternatives will be considered before a landfill is approved in Leongatha South.
“The state policy has landfill disposals ranked as the least desirable outcome. Over the next month we will be looking for other ways to achieve appropriate waste management and reduce our reliance on landfill,” he said.
In the meantime, Veolia’s plans are on hold until GWRRG completes its plan.
GWRRG anticipates it will complete its research next month and have compiled a draft plan for public feedback at the end of April.
“Overall, we’ve had excellent attendance to our meetings. We hope the people who attended our forums right across Gippsland have the chance to see the draft plan and provide feedback,” Mr Peake said.
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