Hume City Council will take legal action against the decision to approve an amendment to the Hume Planning Scheme which will facilitate the use of the HiQuality site in Bulla to store contaminated spoil from the West Gate Tunnel Project.
Council made a unanimous decision to initiate judicial review proceedings to examine the decision by the Minister for Planning.
Hume Mayor, Councillor Joseph Haweil said there had been no process for Council or officers to provide input into this decision or to further advance Council’s objection to the proposal since submitting a response to the proposed amendment in September 2020.
“The decision to take this to the Supreme Court was not made lightly. The costs are significant, however my fellow Councillors and I believe this is the right thing to do and the action our community expects,” Cr Haweil said.
“How the Victorian Government felt it appropriate to avoid the usual process and approve this amendment without public consultation and independent review is beyond belief.”
“We could not have been clearer in our response that the Minister for Planning should not approve this amendment, particularly without a transparent process involving community consultation and independent review.”
This site in Bulla is in close proximity to where the Victorian Government recently approved residential development in Sunbury South, and concerningly backs onto Emu Creek.
“We can’t understand why the Victorian Government would want to dump spoil in a growing residential area,” Cr Haweil said.
Council will also write to Minister for Planning, the Minister for Transport Infrastructure and the Head of Transport for Victoria outlining Council’s objection regarding the major impact this could have on our roads that are already under strain.
“We hold great concerns about allowing hundreds of extra trucks crossing the narrow, dangerous and heritage bridge at Bulla.
“We also object strongly to this proposal causing any delay to the much-needed Gap Road Level Crossing Removal Project or Sunbury Road Upgrade Project.”
Hume City Council cannot be clearer; we do not support the spoil coming to Bulla and will continue to stand by our community and support concerns for their health, the environment and the impact the traffic congestion this facility will create.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is this issue about?
The HiQuality site in Bulla, a privately-owned landfill, has been identified as one of three proposed sites to receive, store and treat contaminated soil from the West Gate Tunnel project.
On 29 March 2021, the Minister for Planning approved an amendment to the Hume Planning Scheme which is a key step in facilitating the HiQuality site in becoming the location for the storing and treatment of contaminated spoil from the West Gate Tunnel Project.
This approval was made despite strong objection from Council and the community.
What has Council done to stop spoil from coming to Bulla?
Council has been active in its advocacy and opposing this decision in support of our community.
Since early March 2020, Council has been calling on the Minister for Planning to provide information on this proposal.
Following a request from the Department Environment Land Water Planning (DELWP) on behalf of the Minister for Planning to seek Council’s views on this issue, Council submitted a formal response strongly outlining its objection. The response was prepared by Maddocks law firm with input from Council officers, a traffic expert and an environmental management expert.
Since the response was submitted, Council has received no further correspondence from the Victorian Government.
Council has continued to issue statements strongly opposing this decision.
At the Council meeting of 12 April 2021, Councillors voted unanimously to take legal action against the decision announced by the Minister for Planning on 29 March 2021 to approve an amendment to the Hume Planning Scheme to facilitate the Bulla site as a location for this contaminated soil.
Why has Council made the decision to take legal action?
This is not a decision Council has taken lightly. The costs are significant, however Council believes this is the right thing to do.
What will the legal process involve?
A judicial review will consider the Minister’s exercise of discretion under section 20 (4) of the Planning and Environment Act. The review would not consider the merits of the planning scheme amendment.
If Council is successful and the Court finds that the Minister’s decision was unlawful, the Minister would be required to make a new decision.
What are the costs involved in taking legal action?
The estimated costs to Council associated with taking legal action against this decision are estimated to be between $100,000 to $200,000 but could be higher.
If the application for a judicial review is not successful, there is a risk that the Supreme Court could require that Council pay the costs incurred by the Minister for Planning.
What are the next steps of the approval process for the use of the HiQuality facility in Bulla?
The planning provisions that the Minister for Planning has introduced include requirements that must be met before the construction and operation of the facility can commence, and then during the life of the operation. This include a range of plans and documents that must be prepared to the satisfaction of the Minister for Planning and State Government departments and agencies.