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‘Feed lots for sea creatures’

A PROPOSED onshore abalone farm has been described as “one of the world’s largest industrialised feed lots for sea creatures,” during a bid to overturn approvals for the project.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal began a three-day sitting in the Warrnambool Magistrates’ Court on Monday before more than 20 tribunal members and some legal and resident representatives toured the site and associated developments yesterday.

Portland identities, journalist Tony Wright and rose farm business operator Rachael Matuschka, are among the residential neighbours objecting to the Yumbah Nyamat proposal along Dutton Way, Bolwarra, along with Brian Malseed, who lives near Ms Matuschka and on land overlooking the site.

It was Mr Wright who characterised the 45-hectare project as a “feed lot” during his presentation to the three-member tribunal in Warrnambool on Wednesday.

On Tuesday another objector to the project, the Port of Portland, also introduced the rationale for their concerns through their lawyer, Queen’s Counsel (QC) Stuart Morris.

Mr Wright and Ms Matuschka were joined by several supporters from the region on Wednesday, filling the small court room.

He said he and his wife Fiona Wright were making the submission on behalf of 55 residents of Dutton Way, and supported Ms Matuschka’s submission too.

Three generations of their family had lived on the road, and four years ago the Wrights were given a building permit to rebuild a house at the site his parents bought in the 1960s, opposite the proposed Yumbah site.

The couple duly built a home that they intended to make as their final residence, he said.

His neighbour, Gunditjmara woman Amy Saunders, had a connection to the area that was far longer and included her grandfather living on the farm that the project would be built on.

“This proposed development’s massive size is incompatible with an historic rural residential settlement within a rural living zone,” he said.

“It is in clear conflict with the expectations of those who reside there and who have purchased homes there.”

He said the proposed project would extend along Dutton Way for nearly 800m and reach back 315m towards the base of the ridge and “sheath in concrete a very large part of that valley – with its extremely shallow water table.”

The area was defined as a rural living zone, with such a zone defined by the state government as an area that provided residents with “certainty about the residential amenity of the area and are protected from potentially incompatible land uses,” he said.

“I would submit that this proposed operation, by any reasonable definition, is intensive animal husbandry.

“The industrial scale of the proposal does not meet the expectations of residents who have established their homes in the area, believing rural living to mean what it says.”

He argued that Dutton Way community members had already been “scarred by live experience,” including the loss of houses and streets to the sea following the construction of the K.S. Anderson Wharf in Portland in the 1960s.

“The first house to fall to the assault of the sea was at the very spot where Yumbah Aquaculture now proposes to pull down and rebuild part of the existing rock sea wall so it can place large intake pipes into the sea for its proposed abalone farm.”

Ms Matuschka presented a detailed 66-page report to the tribunal and said she and others had concerns about the project for several reasons, noting that nearly 170 lots had been washed away as a result of the “ravages of the encroaching seas.”

She said oceanographer Dr Kerry Black had told a November 7, 2017, conference hosted by Glenelg Shire Council and the Port of Portland that Dutton Way’s beach orientations needed to be realigned to ensure the best protection of the coastline.

“He states that a sea wall is not the preferred method to combat sea level rise as it causes erosion down current of the wall.

“After asking a DELWP representative the same question, it is not their ideal way to prevent erosion either.

“We believe that there is an opportunity of having a future of no sea wall and would like to have the opportunity to investigate this before the option is taken away from us with the installation of this facility.”

“We believe that this development … will result in a serious case of land use conflict which the Glenelg Shire has an obligation under the provisions of the planning scheme to avoid.

She told the tribunal she and the Malseeds live on the ridge above the proposed site, and that there is a covenant restricting the height of vegetation which could potentially screen off their and their neighbour’s view of the Yumbah project.

She presented a graphic overlay of her expected view of the Yumbah site from inside the family home (pictured) and also expressed concern that solar panels pointed in the direction of the residences on the rise could reflect glare and cause issues for the residents.

The contention that the proposed large-scale abalone farm was by legal definition a type of agricultural use was also spurious, she added.

“We question if there are any agricultural uses that cover this amount of grazing land with concrete.”

Portland is also becoming an onshore whale-spotting destination, with sightings increasing, and that could be jeopardised if noises from the pumps were emitted into the ocean from the site, she added.

“We are of the opinion a detailed report should have been prepared on the potential impacts by a marine acoustic specialist.”

The Port of Portland’s arguments will be detailed in Tuesday’s Portland Observer.

The VCAT sitting headed by Deputy President Teresa Bisucci, Senior Member Ian Potts and Member Claire Bennett is expected to continue for a further five weeks from Melbourne.

Owner of the Henty Bay Holiday Park, L Clarke Developments and Holiday Lifestyle Developments Australia, withdrew from the VCAT proceedings last week after expressing their strong opposition to the project in the past.

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