Soil legal action launched

By Oliver Lees

Hume council will take Bulla’s toxic soil saga to the Supreme Court.

Last week, Hume councillors voted unanimously to have the council’s lawyers initiate legal proceedings to review a decision by Planning Minister Richard Wynne that could see testing and disposal of spoil from the West Gate Tunnel project at a site on Sunbury Road.

As reported by Star Weekly, Mr Wynne approved Hi-Quality Group’s planning scheme amendment for the site on March 29.

Council estimates the legal proceedings will cost between $100,000 to $200,000, but noted that cost could be higher if it were to lose the case.

Council received 58 community submissions and over 300 emails in relation to council officers’ recommendation to initiate legal proceedings.

Cr Jodi Jackson said the number of submissions indicated the community is “highly engaged” in voicing its concerns about the project.

“Our community is in the midst of a toxic soil crisis,” she said.

“They have been highly engaged with this issue for a very long time.”

All 58 submissions were read aloud by council staff during last Monday’s council meeting, with community members listing a number of concerns including the site’s proximity to new residential housing, the effect on housing prices, traffic congestion and odour.

One submission warned councillors that the vote on the issue “could quite possibly be the most important vote of your careers”.

Another stated: “Please fight for us and save our safe haven”.

Mayor Joseph Haweil said there had been no process for the council to have a say on the issue since submitting a response to Hi-Quality’s planning scheme amendment in September, 2020.

Cr Jarrod Bell said while he was supportive of the legal action, council needed to be cognisant of the cost.

“This is not an insignificant sum of money that could build new community facilities,” he said.

Sunbury Residents Association (SRA) president Graham Williams said from a ratepayer’s perspective, this was the correct allocation of resources.

“SRA has always been against the use of the Bulla site for the transport of contaminated soil so we’re very pleased to see the council challenging this decision,” Mr Williams said.

“As a residents association we don’t like to see money go to waste, but this is the right thing to do.”