Farmers fear for future

Sunbury against Toxic Soil protest- Chris O'Neil starts the protest march. (Joe Mastroianni). 233858_03

Oliver Lees

When farmers Heather Dodd and John McKenzie inherited their property on Sunbury Road, they were determined to continue their family’s legacy.

But following the approval of a planning scheme amendment that could see toxic soil treated at a site across the road from their doorstep, the couple are concerned what the impact could have on their home and work.

“Dad bought the property in 1951, he prided himself in being a good land manager and that’s been passed onto us,” Ms Dodd said.

“The impact could be rather severe on our place, because they’re talking about dumping the contaminants near Sunbury Road, which means if we get a northerly gale, it’ll pick up and carry across the road to us.”

The couple depend on the land for their livelihood.

Across the 394 acre property, they raise Angus cows and grow wheat, barley and granola.

Mr McKenzie said having the Hi-Quality site so close to their home could be detrimental to their produce and the environment.

“If we have a huge rain event and the interceptor dams are breached, it’ll come down out through the gully and toward our place,” Mr McKenzie said, following a protest that saw hundreds gather in opposition to the relocation of soil to the site in Bulla.

“And then our gully is contaminated and that contamination then continues on toward Jacksons Creek and to the Maribyrnong River.”

Mr McKenzie and Ms Dodd said they were first made aware of the proposed treatment in March 2020, when a representative from Hi-Quality reached out to them as part of their community consultation process.

Both have since had further consultation with Hi-Quality representatives.

But Ms Dodd said despite repeated efforts, she was yet to be able to have consultation with the state government.

“This is our big beef, we have just been denied consultation,” she said.

“It appears nobody considers that the community has a right to say anything.”

Ms Dodd said she wrote to the state government’s minister for planning Richard Wynne in October last year but did not receive a reply.

She said she would still take the opportunity to voice her concerns if given the opportunity.

“It’s never too late, just come and talk to us.”