By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Waste-to-energy-plant opponent Ramy El-Sukkari is part of an intriguing three-way battle for Keysborough South Ward in the October council elections.
Mr El-Sukkari, a “passionate” Keysborough resident for 32 years, has led the South East Environmental Group’s 12-month campaign against the proposed waste-to-energy project in Ordish Road.
The business manager and ALP member is running as a non-endorsed independent.
“I will be elected by the residents and answering directly to the residents. I’m running my own campaign independently – there’s no outside (political) support, no interference.
“If you look at the waste-to-energy plant, the initial vote by the council was in favour of it.
“We’ve gone completely against that (initial) decision.”
SEEG’s campaign, including petitions and letterboxing against the anticipated human health impact, helped sway councillors to unanimously oppose the project.
Mr El-Sukkari will contest the seat against another ALP member Stephen Fanous and Greens candidate Rhonda Garad.
All three candidates have stated their opposition to the waste-to-energy proposal.
VCAT is to decide the project’s fate in two separate hearings.
“We have to make sure the council is working hard and effectively to put a good case against the (EPA’s) works approval,” Mr El-Sukkari said.
“We’ve requested that the council engages a third party to dissect the EPA report and identify any clear issues.
“The EPA report is quite technical. It needs an expert to highlight and read through the data to put the council in the best possible position to defend us.”
He said SEEG proposed an alternative “solution” for the mounting problem of solid waste disposal.
It included reducing waste generation at the source, increasing composting, recycling, re-use of items and resident education.
As Greater Dandenong plots a zero-carbon future, special focus should be made on Dandenong South industrial area’s carbon-dioxide emissions, Mr El-Sukkari said.
The area produces 72 per cent of Greater Dandenong’s emissions, he said.
“You can have all the great intentions, but all you need is a couple of offensive industries coming in the next five-to-10 years and all the good work can be undone.”
Other priority issues include diverting heavy trucks from the populated Chapel and Perry roads, and preventing house and car break-ins.
Low voter turnouts at council elections should also be addressed. At the 2016 election, just over 65 per cent of eligible voters lodged a ballot paper.
“I don’t believe enough work has been done in this area.
“Either the City of Greater Dandenong or the VEC have a vital role in terms of educating voters on why their vote is critical and how to properly vote.”
The proposed Keysborough Community Hub including library, child care, community lounge and meeting rooms was a “much-needed asset” but its location divided residents.
In recent weeks, he’d help neighbours resolve their concerns about traffic and noise from the Villiers Road site.
Resident Domenic Boccari says Mr El-Sukkari’s consultation had convinced him to support his election tilt.
“Ramy helped us to overcome this feud with our local Council. No other local resident came forward and offered the advice that Ramy did.
“No councillor did what Ramy did either by going into fine detail on the operational side or the layout of the community hub. He did a great job in uniting our community.”
Cr Matthew Kirwan refuted Mr Boccari’s claims. Cr Kirwan said councillors had “numerous discussions” with Mr Boccari and “other concerned residents” about the hub.
“I’ve personally been in a dialogue with him for nine months.
“There’s no fine detail on the operational side yet. That’s in preparation for the hub opening in 2022.
“We’re not designing a community hub that will impact on other residents.”