Victorian planning minister refuses to intervene in legal action by Iluka Resources against Horsham Council

The Iluka Resources mineral sands mine and disposal site at Douglas

The Iluka Resources mineral sands mine and disposal site at Douglas

HORSHAM Rural City Council’s decision to block a mining company’s planning application will likely be examined by a tribunal after the state government refused to intervene.

Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne advised Horsham council by letter on Monday that he had declined to call the matter in under the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act.

“I believe that this is a planning matter best resolved through the planning permit and tribunal process,” Mr Wynne stated.

“I believe that the tribunal has the expertise to deal with the planning permit application and the processes to provide for submissions, expert evidence and cross examination, thus providing a robust review of the decision made by council on this proposal.”

Horsham council chief executive Peter Brown said he appreciated the timeless of Mr Wynne’s decision, coming before main proceedings, but he did not agree.

“I am disappointed that the minister hasn’t called the appeal in,” he said.

“We presented a very good case to him and he certainly listened to our case and brought on board the significant of the issue and the significance to the state of Victoria.

“I think that the letter hasn’t addressed all the issues that we raised and we will give it more thought and we may be be responding to the minister further.” 

In June, council refused planning permission for mineral sands mining company Iluka Resources to continue and expand its waste disposal operation at Douglas. Iluka later appealed

The site is located about 50 kilometres south-west of Horsham and receives waste from Iluka’s mineral processing plant in Hamilton.

Some landowners near the site have fought a years-long battle against a bigger disposal operation, claiming low-level radioactive waste from the plant could contaminate groundwater. 

Iluka’s Hamilton plant employs about 90 people full time and dozens of contractors, and requires access to a waste site to remain viable.

The plant is located within Southern Grampians Shire, whose chief executive previously expressed concern about Horsham Council rejecting Iluka’s application.

The planning Minister has the legislated power to call-in appeals being reviewed by the Planning Division of the Tribunal,.

The power can be applied where the Minister considers that the proceeding raises a major issue of policy; and the determination of the proceeding may have a substantial effect on the achievement or development of planning objectives.

Horsham council representatives, along with Iluka Resources and any other third parties with a stake in the planning matter were due to attended a compulsory hearing at the tribunal on Friday.

Horsham council has estimated that it will cost ratepayers between $30,000 and $50,000 to defend the case.

Mr Brown and Horsham Mayor Heather Phillips met with Mr Wynne in Melbourne a month ago to discuss the council’s request to have the appeal called in. 

Council planning and economic director Angela Murphy the minister was contacted because of the complex technical and environmental issues.

“Council does not have the capacity and technical expertise to monitor a proposal of this nature,” Ms Murphy said.

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