Waste-to-energy plant at first hurdle

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A $15 million waste-to-energy plant in Dandenong South has been put on hold after being narrowly approved by Greater Dandenong councillors.

After the 28 October vote, Cr Maria Sampey lodged a rescission motion for councillors to reconsider the planning permit two weeks later.

The Great Southern Waste Technologies plant at 70 Ordish Road is proposed to incinerate an annual 100,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste otherwise bound for landfill.

It would convert it to about 9.3 megawatts of power a year.

The plant features a 55-metre tall smoke stack, and is designed for no stockpiling of waste on-site.

The site is in an industrial 2 zone, the home to the most offensive industries and at least 1500 metres from residential areas.

At the 28 October meeting, councillors were split 5-5 on granting a planning permit. Mayor Youhorn Chea’s casting vote decided the matter in the affirmative.

Controversially, the Environment Protection Authority Victoria hasn’t yet assessed the environmental impact.

Opposing councillors said there needed to be more information and consultation prior to the vote.

“My objection is we don’t know much about it,” Cr Matthew Kirwan told the meeting.

The suburb bordered Keysborough and Dandenong, yet there were no details on emissions, environmental impact nor site and environmental management plans, he said.

“It’s not good enough for myself as a councillor to say that this is the EPA’s problem, they’ll do it later.

“That’s not reasonable, that’s not something I can justify to residents. That’s not responsible.”

Cr Maria Sampey said it was “dangerous” that councillors weren’t making an “informed decision”.

“I don’t have blind faith in even the EPA. I think sometimes even the EPA hides things from residents.”

Cr Jim Memeti said the proposal being “so close to residential homes” should have been advertised instead of being “swept under the carpet so quickly”.

Cr Tim Dark, in support of the project, said “state-of-the-art” European technology was being used in the project. It was a practical solution to the recycling crisis, he said.

“We don’t have the capacity to keep storing it in landfill and big holes.”

It was up to the council whether to approve the building design, prior to the EPA assessment, he said.

“I don’t believe we’re in a position of opposing something that hasn’t had the fair chance of heading to the EPA yet.”

Cr Sean O’Reilly said the council should “stay within our lane” and “understand the EPA is trusted to do its job”.

“We can have philosophical arguments on what the EPA is going to do and not going to do. It’s really out of our hands.”

A council report said that in regard to the land use, the proposal was “appropriate” and “will not raise unreasonable adverse amenity impacts”. The EPA did not object to the planning permit.

The environmental impacts were to be considered in a “highly detailed and technical” works approval process by the EPA, the report stated.

“As such, Council is not to consider this level of technical environmental detail, and rather is to consider the appropriateness of the land use and built form.”

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