Moyne council rejects riverside home plan

COMMUNITY pressure has stopped a new home on a controversial block of riverfront land in Port Fairy.

Moyne Shire refused a permit for a two-storey house at 107 Gipps Street after a tense meeting last night with locals and the developer.

More than 30 people , mostly objectors, packed into the gallery, breaking into applause after councillors unanimously voted against the home. 

The block of land next to the Moyne River bridge is estimated to be worth between $500,000 and $1 million. 

The issue was thrown in the spotlight last year after applicant John Mugavin was awarded the land for free under an adverse possession claim. 

But moves to build a home at the popular fishing spot sparked local anger, with many regarding the site as public land. Council received 60 objections and met with an angry 100-strong crowd at the site earlier this month. 

However, the issue is now almost certain to land in the state’s top planning court, the Victorian Civil and Administrative and Tribunal (VCAT).

Speaking to council, Mr Mugavin said he had made “every endeavour” to work with Moyne’s planning staff and had altered the design of the home to suit requirements.

“I was born in this community, I played football in Port Fairy. My wife and children also consider Port Fairy as part of their lives. I wish to build a family home on this site that we can all enjoy it,” he said. 

He issued a blunt warning that he would take the matter to VCAT if refused a permit and would also rescind an offer to gift the front part of the land to council for public use. 

“I make no bones about it, if I am refused a permit I will pursue other avenues. If I have to go to VCAT it would be more delays for me and I would have to take it off the table,” he said.

Mr Mugavin also argued that environmental bodies such as the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Authority and Wannon Water had not listed objections.  

Speaking later during debate, mayor James Purcell said council was unafraid of a VCAT hearing. 

“I believe the form and bulk of the building is excessive. I certainly don’t fear any threat of VCAT. It is council’s obligation to make the right decision, not the one based on a threat of any description,” Cr Purcell said.

Those comments were echoed by Cr Jill Parker, who said the issue had generated more opposition than any other plan she could recall. 

“We have to judge our applications on merit but it is interesting that we have received more objections to this than I can recall since I’ve been on council,” Cr Parker said. 

“It is a very hard decision for a councillor.” 

Cr Ryan said he still regarded the site, zoned for farming, as public land. 

“He may well have no objections from authorities, however, all these factors do not make the application correct. I believe we owe it to the community of Port Fairy to refuse this application,” Cr Ryan said.

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