Waste plant clears first VCAT hurdle

VCAT has approved a planning permit for a waste-to-energy plant in Ordish Road.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A controversial waste-to-energy plant in Dandenong South has been granted planning permit approval by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The proponent Great Southern Waste Technologies as well as the opponents Greater Dandenong Council and South East Environment Group were advised of the outcome by VCAT on 15 September.

The plant at 70 Ordish Road was found to be appropriately sited in the Industrial 2 zone and not to adversely impact on amenity, the Star Journal has been told.

The VCAT decision and reasons have yet to be published.

The project still has to clear a second VCAT hearing in February – after City of Greater Dandenong appealed against the EPA’s works approval.

Earlier this year, GSWT sought VCAT to decide the planning permit after the council failed to make a decision within the 60-day statutory limit.

The council deferred its decision until the EPA assessed the plant’s environmental impacts.

The gasification plant with a 55-metre chimney will process up to 100,000 tonnes a year of municipal household solid waste, commercial and industrial waste.

It is said to supply 7.9 MW of electricity to the grid.

Municipal household waste, which would be diverted from landfill, was estimated to make up 80 per cent of the feeder material.

GSWT’s chief operating officer Bill Keating declined to comment on the VCAT decision.

Greater Dandenong mayor Jim Memeti said the decision highlighted the need to relocate the Industrial 2 zone.

Thousands of residents living in Dandenong South and Keysborough South were impacted by the zone’s heavy industries despite a supposed 1.5-kilometre buffer, he said.

Homes were as close as 1.4 kilometres from the Ordish Road site.

Schools and community centres in Keysborough within five kilometres have also objected.

“I’m disappointed that VCAT have come to this decision,” Cr Memeti said.

“People in our area are concerned about these kind of facilities near them.

“I’m concerned about the health of the community.”

Cr Memeti will seek a health survey of Dandenong South and Keysborough South residents, suspecting higher-than-average rates of disease, severe disabilities at birth and infertility.

A 2011 survey by the Department of Health found no disease cluster.

But Cr Memeti said the wide sample area, extending into Casey and Dandenong North, had “diluted” the result.

Ramy El-Sukkari, of the SEEG, said the VCAT decision was “disappointing” and “outrageous”.

The Keysborough South Ward candidate called for the council to create a waste reduction policy – which would increase recycling, reusing and composting to reduce the need for such a plant.

Greater Dandenong should hire independent scientific expertise to “break apart” the proposal, Mr El-Sukkari said.

“There are hundreds and thousands of articles and studies all over the world and the internet that highlight all the risks and problems (with such plants).”

In July, Environment Protection Authority Victoria granted works approval with “stringent conditions”.

In its findings, the EPA stated the “potential air emissions … pose negligible risk to human health”.

The proposed air emission, odour and noise pollution controls were “consistent with international best practice standards of the European Union”.

The EPA found that the plant’s 1.4 kilometre distance from the closest residents and Mt Hira College was “acceptable”.

Greater Dandenong has appealed the EPA decision, which will be heard at VCAT in February 2021.