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Future of Kingston’s Green Wedge on a knife edge

10 August 2020

The future of one of Melbourne’s vital green wedges and the long-awaited Chain of Parks hangs in the balance, with the Victorian Government imminently set to rule on whether to allow an industrial waste facility to continue to operate past its permitted deadline for relocation.

Kingston Council has called on the Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne to safeguard the future of Kingston’s Green Wedge and enforce the deadline for a local concrete crusher to leave the protected area.

Kingston Mayor Georgina Oxley said the Alex Fraser Group’s permit to operate its Clarinda concrete crushing facility in the Green Wedge expires in December 2023.The company was given 15 year’s notice to find a new location, from when it was given a time-limited permit in 2008.

“Locals, environmentalists and Kingston Council have been long anticipating the end of the waste industry in the Green Wedge. But now the Alex Fraser Group has applied for a 15-year extension until 2038, which would open the door to a permanent stay at the site,” Cr Oxley said.

“Approving an extension for a concrete crusher would fly in the face of this Government’s and the Planning Minister’s strong support for the Green Wedge. Protecting Green Wedges, from inappropriate development has been a strong priority of Council and the Victorian Government and key to that is finally moving on industrial waste operations,” Cr Oxley said.

Cr Oxley said the company still had three years to find a new location, and in that time key local infrastructure projects that use recycled concrete from the site – such as the Mordialloc Freeway and Level Crossing Removals – would be complete.

“A permit extension is simply not needed to support the major projects now underway and three years to relocate still gives the company plenty of time to find a suitable site for an industrial waste facility and plan for a smooth transition.”

The Green Wedges act as the ‘lungs of Melbourne’ and were introduced in 1971, when key areas including the Alex Fraser Clarinda site were set aside for protection.

“It’s time to uphold the Green Wedge and finally deliver the long-awaited Chain of Parks to provide Melbourne’s south-east with much needed new pubic open space. The area has a bright future and is no place for an industrial waste facility.”

The State Government has made a 2018 election commitment of $25 million for the Chain of Parks (Sandbelt Parklands), adjacent to the Alex Fraser site. If Alex Fraser is allowed to stay, other materials recycling applications in the Green Wedges are likely to follow them, and the Chain of Parks will be bounded, and possibly replaced by industrial operations taking advantage of the precedent. Green Wedge land costs less, precisely because industrial and residential development is prohibited

In order to protect the Green Wedges for their fundamental purposes: agriculture, environmental conservation and outdoor recreation in rural open landscapes. The application for a 15-year permit extension was refused by Kingston Council in 2019 and then appealed by the Alex Fraser Group, which was acquired in 2018 by the multi-million dollar overseas-owned Hanson corporation, subsidiary of the German multinational Heidelberg Cement. Both parties called on the Planning Minister to ‘call in’ the decision rather than have it considered at VCAT. The Planning Minister agreed and appointed an advisory committee to hear submissions on the application. The committee’s report and recommendation are due around August 19.

It is understood that key Ministers and Cabinet will also provide input as it is considered a key policy issue.

Kingston Mayor Georgina Oxley said the Planning Minister has been a significant supporter of Melbourne’s Green Wedges and had further strengthened protections for the area in 2015, following the development of the Kingston Green Wedge Management Plan and a detailed Planning Scheme Amendment. The Minister approved C143 which rezoned this and other former quarries and landfill sites to the Green Wedge A Zone, which prohibits industrial uses including materials recycling and concrete crushing.

In 2015 the Minister stated: ‘The Andrews Labor Government believes in modern, state-of-the-art waste recovery and recycling facilities properly located in industrial areas, away from parklands and homes’.

“The community, Council and the Government have all agreed that the Green Wedge is simply no place for an industrial waste facility,” Cr Oxley said. “The integrity of the Green Wedge and critically the planning system is at stake if this extension is granted.” “Please Minister, don't trash our Green Wedge.”

Background information (Correcting the record):

In a well-funded, high-profile public relations campaign, Alex Fraser/Heidelberg Cement has made or encouraged a number of false claims including:

  • their operation is in some way related to the current recycling crisis involving the paper and plastic waste products formerly shipped overseas, which would be made worse by Council's refusal; They don't recycle glass at Clarinda.
  • the land was only included in the Green Wedge in 2015, whereas it has been in the Green Wedge since the Green Wedges were introduced in 1971.
  • they are an Australian company, whereas they have been acquired by the multi-national Hanson corporation, a subsidiary of the German multinational Heidelberg Cement.
  • 50 jobs and a million tonnes of recycling would be sent to landfill if they couldn't stay where they are. Not if they relocate to an appropriate industry zone in the region;
  • the land could be redeveloped as public parkland and recreational open space (after 2038). Or – more likely – it could be operated as an industrial facility in the heart of the Green Wedge indefinitely,
  • the Mordialloc Freeway will be deprived of their recycled concrete and glass. But the Mordialloc Freeway will be completed before Alex Fraser has to leave in 2023.

 

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