Water treatment plant in limbo

A WASTE water treatment plant proposal is in limbo with Warrnambool City councillors failing to back an earlier recommendation to block the development. 

Four councillors — Jacinta Ermacora, Peter Hulin, Brian Kelson and Peter Sycopoulis — voted against the development of the Midfield-operated plant when it came to a vote on July 21.

However, when a vote this week to formalise the council’s opposition towards the development took place, only Cr Ermacora supported it.

The vote needed another councillor to second the motion although councillors Hulin, Kelson and Sycopoulis were not forthcoming with a supportive vote. However, Cr Hulin later told The Standard he had put his hand up to second the motion but Cr Neoh ignored him.

The motion lapsed meaning Warrnambool City Council will not be able to present a formal position to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) when the matter is considered in a few weeks’ time.

Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh said he was dumbfounded that councillors who voted against the treatment plant proposal would fail to support the official council position less than a month later.

“This is a gross abrogation of planning procedure and leaves Warrnambool City Council without an official position on a matter that’s going to VCAT,” Cr Neoh said.

“There was plenty of time to vote and no one followed up on Cr Ermacora’s vote.”

But Cr Hulin rejected the Cr Neoh’s claims and said the mayor wilfully ignored his raised hand at the Monday night meeting.

He acknowledged his hand was “not above his head” although claimed his signalling was clear to the mayor and most other councillors.

“I would put it to the mayor that if he was competent in his role, he would have asked councillors if they understood the seriousness of the situation, spoke about the ramifications (but) he was seemingly hellbent on getting it done and dusted.”

On August 7, Midfield Group verbally advised the city council it had lodged an application for review at VCAT for “failure to grant the permit within the prescribed time”.

On August 11 a report was prepared to advise councillors that they needed to identify reasons for refusal, so that the city council could proceed to VCAT with a position on the matter. 

The recommendation which proposed reasons as to why the council did not support the planning application was moved, but failed to get a seconder, so the motion lapsed. Council chief executive Bruce Anson confirmed the municipality would seek legal advice ahead of the VCAT hearing on the issue.

Cr Hulin said correspondence with city growth director Bill Millard indicated there may be a special meeting staged to resolve the issue, although no date has been set.

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