Council wastewater plant objections sink a second time

A VERBAL stink over a proposed revamp of the Warrnambool rendering plant near sensitive wetlands blew up again last night when an official city council objection sunk due to lack of support.

It was the third chapter in a what was becoming a farcical series of decisions over an application by Midfield Meat to put in a wastewater treatment plant. 

The work would require using earthworks and removal of some native vegetation, decommissioning an anaerobic lagoon network and capturing methane gas to save on energy costs. 

In July when the council first considered in open meeting a recommendation to support the application by Midfield Meat, councillors voted 4-2 against the project but did not give a clear set of reasons for the rejection.

Then on August 11 a motion setting out four specific grounds for opposing the application lapsed for want of a seconder, leaving the council without a firm case to fight a challenge by Midfield in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Last night the issue again came up for a vote to endorse the same set of four reasons to take to a scheduled VCAT hearing on September 19. 

The reasons were: inappropriate site, too close to wetlands and dunes, a key tourism area and lack of follow-up with objectors.

However, it failed on a 3-2 vote after two of the councillors who had objected in July were absent last night.

Cr Jacinta Ermacora, whose August motion fell flat,  said the council risked being regarded as disorganised.

She failed again last night in getting the objections to stand, with Cr Peter Hulin her only supporter. Mayor Michael Neoh then moved the application be approved because it fitted the city’s planning guidelines.

“It’s not a good look,” Cr Ermacora said.

“A large number of community members don’t want the rendering plant in this location near a significant wetland and primary dunes.

“These activities usually occur in industrial zones.

“There’s been a long history by the city council regarding this site going back to the 1970s when the first report on environmental significance recommended it be closed.”

Cr Peter Hulin said the council must clearly establish its position to take to VCAT.

 Cr   Neoh  said the  rendering plant wass an as-of-right facility and the application was an environmental project to help the amenity.

 “I think it will be of benefit to the local community,” he said.

Cr Kylie Gaston said the upgrade was “better than nothing”.

The rendering plant in Swinton Street processes waste mainly from Midfield’s Warrnambool abattoir.

Proposed upgrades are said to  capacity to handle planned expansions at the meatworks, reduce offensive methane odours and reduce risk of pollution run-off.  

It would be linked by a new pipeline to the Wannon Water treatment plant.

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