Jobs up in the air

DandyFresh CEO Rod Kerley at the Bangholme site in March last year.

By Casey Neill

Produce market on hold over push to move it out of green wedge…

A Bangholme produce market that could generate 200 jobs got the green light from Greater Dandenong councillors – but immediately arrived at a stop sign.
Councillors approved the DandyFresh development for green wedge-zoned land in Harwood Road at their Monday 26 June council meeting, six votes to two.
But Cr Matthew Kirwan, who voted against the proposal with Cr Loi Truong, lodged a rescission motion that will bring the matter back to the Monday 10 July meeting.
He’ll ask councillors to take back their decision and re-debate the application in the hope they will reject it this time around.
“The officer’s report provided flimsy justification and special treatment for a large-scale commercial food enterprise that should be in an industrial zone, not a green wedge zone,” Cr Kirwan said.
“Does a 5000 square metre sterilisation facility sound like rural industry to anyone in this chamber?
“Does 8700 square metres of warehousing?”
He said the applicant was taking advantage of cheap land.
Even if the council’s decision stands, DandyFresh will have another battle on its hands.
Defenders of the South East Green Wedge vowed to take the matter to VCAT.
Secretary Barry Ross said the council’s own policy said the green wedge should “provide a green, spacious relief from surrounding urban development”.
“Its buildings, roads, and internal carparks would cover 16.5 hectares, which is more than eight times the area of the playing surface of the MCG,” he said.
“If this application is approved it would set a precedent for more such large scale development that would transform the green wedge into an urban commercial precinct.”
Bangholme resident Alan Hood wrote to the Journal with his objections to the application.
“A market is a permissible use in the green wedge zone, but is limited to 50 square metres,” he said.
“The intent is that a farmer can use this area to sell his produce.”
DandyFresh CEO Rod Kerley said the development was appropriate in the green wedge and he was “happy to go to VCAT”.
“We’ve had three eminent legal people look at it and all come back with the same decision,” he said.
“I’m a little disappointed that we weren’t asked to sit down with Cr Kirwan and Cr Truong.
“We worked really closely with the councillors at Dandenong.”
Mr Kerley said that within two years there’d be a population larger than Adelaide’s in the area that the market would service.
“It’s nowhere near as big as (the Melbourne Wholesale Market in) Epping, it’s not meant to replace Epping, it’s just to service a market for both growers and retailers in a fairly localised area,” he said.
“As time goes on, the people who use the market will be offered equity positions within the management.
“Ultimately it will be a market owned by the users and run by the users.”
Intrapac Property managing director David Payes said Intrapac was a joint venture partner with some investors on the land and also an investor in DandyFresh.
“It will contribute more than 200 jobs into that Dandenong area,” he said.
Mr Payes said Cr Kirwan was serving “a political agenda” and that Intrapac was “a bit blindsided by his decision, he hasn’t been in touch”.
“It’s a legitimate use of the land and a good use that meets the needs of agriculture and business,” he said.
“Many agricultural producers have very large warehouses on their facilities.”
Mr Payes said the idea was to tap into south-east producers.
“It’s a fairly simple equation. Epping’s a long way from Dandenong,” he said.
Cr Sean O’Reilly said the facility would allow local growers to compete with those from overseas and meet growing demand from population growth.