THE fate of the proposed Cape Bridgewater resort will be decided over the winter, after the government panel hearing into the $85 million project was yesterday delayed for two months.
Planning Panels Victoria’s Priority Projects Standing Advisory Committee held a directions (preliminary) hearing by video conference yesterday where the terms for the full hearing were agreed.
The full hearing was initially scheduled to start in mid- to late-March, but yesterday’s hearing saw that delayed.
Sarah Raso, appearing for Australian Tourism Trust which is behind the resort proposal, said its senior counsel, Chris Townsend QC, was unavailable until at least May 31.
The other option for the applicant was to begin the hearing after mid-July.
Shelly Fanning, for the Save Cape Bridgewater Association which opposes the resort, said it “strongly opposed” any delay.
“We’re ready to go,” Ms Fanning said.
The three-member committee consists of David Merrett (chairman), Mandy Elliott (deputy chairman) and Phillipa Crone.
Mr Merrett said the May 31 date was most suitable, and he set down three weeks for the hearing, which would also be heard by video conference at this stage but “the benefit from the community perspective with a later date is circumstances may change and may change in favour of face-to-face hearings”.
“We understand the community’s concerns about the timeframe that’s being suggested by the applicant given that it’s probably another three months before we come back to hear the merits of the proposal,” he said.
“Our perspective is you should choose a date that accommodates all parties.”
Mr Merrett said the committee would make its recommendation to Planning Minister Richard Wynne within eight weeks of the end of the full hearing.
That compared to the standard 10-20 days.
“In this particular matter because of the complexities involved there will be a longer time frame,” he said.
“Obviously if we can get a report prepared prior to that (eight weeks) we will try to, but it won’t be within the 10-20 day timeframe.
“It is a complex matter that is before us that has certainly sparked a lot of community interest.”
Mr Merrett, who said he had never been to Cape Bridgewater, said the committee would make an unaccompanied site inspection before the full hearing.
Among the items agreed was who would speak at the full hearing and for how long, and the Association also took umbrage at a suggestion by Mr Merrett that all or many of its members could be heard as one submission.
Association president Patrick O’Brien said he “strongly objected” to that.
“Individual members have their own experience with this part of the world, and they wish to express that,” he said.
Mr Merrett agreed, and many will make submissions ranging from about five minutes to two-and-a-half hours.
Several others who support the resort will also speak for similar timeframes.
All up 46 people have requested to speak, including at least one couple on opposite sides of the fence – Mr Merrett set aside one week for those submissions.
Submitters Damon Jarrett (architecture) and Terry Walshe (environmental science) wanted to speak as experts as well and were told they needed to do that by being called by another submitter, as that evidence would need to be tested by the other parties – expert witnesses are the only ones that can be cross-examined.
Ms Fanning said the Association’s submission would take about four hours, with the likelihood of experts in the fields of economics and architecture/design.
Ms Raso said the Australian Tourism Trust would call about eight expert witnesses in a range of fields over about four days, as well as about one hour at the start to outline the development proposal to all parties – though only about half the experts might actually have to speak.
“It’s likely four or five will be the project consultants that provided the reports that may not need to be called and the reports tendered as read,” Ms Raso said.
Kelly Wynne, representing Glenelg Shire Council which will make the opening submission, said it would take about five hours.
While councillors last July voted to send the matter to Mr Wynne for a decision, with in-principle support, it is still the responsible authority on the matter until the Planning Minister decides if he will make the decision.