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12 May 2021
UPDATE May 13: Environment Protection Authority Victoria is considering a Works Approval application from Water Sustainability Farm Pty Ltd for a facility to take and treat trade waste from Australian Plant Proteins in Horsham.
EPA has received 28 submissions from the public and has now arranged for an independently chaired community conference under section 20B of Environment Protection Act 1970 (EP Act) to be held at Quantong Recreation Reserve on Wednesday. May 26 from 7pm-8.30pm.
To attend this event, community members can RSVP here by Monday May 24, 2021. It is noted that due to social distancing requirements the registration limit will be capped at 100 people.
Article continues below
By DEAN LAWSON
A group of Quantong residents remains defiantly opposed to a development proposal that includes establishing a wastewater farm at the Wimmera settlement.
Protester Sharnee Lockhart said after listening to proposals and assessing compromises developers were willing to make, the group remained vigilant in its stand.
“I’m all for development projects like this overall going ahead. It is great for Horsham and I’m absolutely not against progress. But in this case it is simply not the right place to do it,” she said.
“It’s okay for a developer to try to reassure us there will be no dust, noise or smell or other environmental issues. But we’re talking about a saline-water treatment area that is quite extensive and very close by.
“It is hard to feel any sort of confidence. We fear if this goes ahead it can’t be reversed.”
Mrs Lockhart, her husband Matthew and two children live nearby the proposed development site in Lanes Avenue, where the family also runs an evolving Gourmet Food and Flowers business.
A Water Sustainability Farm proposal involves developing four evaporation basins and a drying pad at the Quantong site.
The water farm’s primary role would be to provide ground-breaking manufacturing firm Australian Plant Proteins somewhere to truck wastewater and compost from its production site at Horsham Enterprise Estate.
Developers outlined plans and heard concerns at a community consultation session.
They have declared a willingness to explore some compromises to address resident concerns such as changing a trucking route to the site and removing compost-sludge drying from the plans.
Farm director and agricultural entrepreneur Peter Blair has also since revealed the project is part of a multi-use plan that represented a value-adding expansion to farm-business operations. These included establishment of a native cut-flower farm at the site, a project requiring stringent environmentally friendly circumstances.
But Mrs Lockhart said she and group members, most of them other nearby residents, remained unconvinced the proposal – ‘in any way’ – fitted in with the ‘peri-urban’ lifestyle of Quantong.
She said her family had shifted to Quantong three years ago for the country and community lifestyle it offered after being involved in an intense commercial enterprise for many years.
She added that part of an evolving family tourism business, which ultimately included providing patrons an outdoor dining experience, was at odds with the wastewater project.
“This is our dream lifestyle that we are working very hard for and this has been a bit of a hammer blow,” she said.
“We need industry development in the region, but we don’t want burgeoning industries in conflict with each other.
“It’s too close and it’s too sensitive and we’ve dug our heels in. It’s just not right for this area.”
Fellow resident Dean Marshall said he was worried about the potential impact the project might have on the natural environment.
“There’s a lot of wildlife there such as turtles, water monitors and endangered growling grass frogs. We’ve done a lot of work here to try to make sure those habitats stay intact,” he said.
“When the floods were on all this area was washing right through there. So there is concern about what would happen if there is a major flood again and an impact of salinity through the whole area.”
Mrs Lockhart said the core group protesting the plans involved about 10 people and there were also informal petitions out gathering signatures.
Wimmera Catchment Management Authority has requested further information from Environment Protection Authority, which is assessing the wastewater project, about design, construction and management.
Australian Plant Proteins, about a decade in the making and a multi-million-dollar private-enterprise response to a Wimmera business plan, is rapidly expanding operations to meet international demand for its products.
Its Horsham workforce is set to climb to 45 at its enterprise estate headquarters and potentially up to 200 if expansion plans, including a greenfield-site development, occurs in the Wimmera centre.
Water-processing limitations in Horsham has meant it has had to pursue independent wastewater management, with GWMWater providing interim support.
The entire May 5, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!