Council's position on Big Hill unchanged

Cr Tony Driscoll is confident the exhaustive process of reaching the EES stage will result in the best outcome for Stawell.

Cr Tony Driscoll is confident the exhaustive process of reaching the EES stage will result in the best outcome for Stawell.

Northern Grampians Shire Council continues to seek clarification from the Environmental Effects Statement Panel over impacts the proposed Big Hill Enhanced Development Project may have on Stawell.

Council voted at a special meeting on Monday night in favour of adopting a briefing paper that had previously been presented on the project, as the basis of its submission to Planning Panels Victoria on the EES process.

The briefing paper outlines potential implications and impact of the project from a Northern Grampians Shire perspective, including a discussion on the short and longer term economic and social benefit of the project.

It also covers areas of health and amenity monitoring, heritage and culture, the natural environment and the rehabilitation program for Big Hill during the project and the legacy to be left for the community when mining ceases. The paper also contains a set of 

possible 'conditions' that council would like the Panel to consider should it decide to recommend the approval of the project to the Minister. 

A second part to a recommendation, 'that council states its support for the implementation of the Big Hill Enhanced Development project on the basis that Stawell Gold Mine, through the EES, has now demonstrated that the community, environmental and economic benefits of the project clearly outweigh any detrimental impacts' was not included in council's motion at Monday's meeting.

However, Mayor Cr Kevin Erwin said the council's position had not changed over the past 15 months, since it was moved in February 2013 to provide 'in principle' support for Stawell Gold Mine to pursue the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project subject to conditions.

"That position really hasn't changed at all. We still offer our in principle support, subject to the completion of further impact assessment studies and a clear demonstration by Stawell Gold Mines that the community, environmental and economic benefits clearly outweigh any detrimental impacts," Cr Erwin said.

"The basis of our submission was to make the panel aware of our concerns and the areas that we see need to be addressed before any further decisions are made."

Cr Erwin said the submission contained 17 points or questions that council would like addressed as part of the EES process.

"There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered," he said.

"We did in February 2013 offer our in principle support to the project, subject to conditions. Hopefully our submission will be heard by the people who will make the final decision.

"It really is a leap of faith by many people. We need to trust that the best decision will be made and we will have to abide by whatever decision is made."

Cr Murray Emerson provided a brief history of the progress to date, since Stawell Gold Mines announced in January 2013 that it intended to lodge an Environmental Effects Statement Referral with the Victorian Government to determine the approvals process it would need to follow if it pursues a project to extend its mining operations into the Big Hill area. 

The Minister, on April 23, issued his determination and also wrote to council advising that an Environmental Effects Statement was required for the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project. 

"This has now gone ahead and has taken quite a bit of time, but it's now back for further consideration to the Planning Minister's office at Parliament House," Cr Emerson said.

"We have made a submission and on that submission, we have detailed 17 points that we still need cleared up.

"I believe that we are guided by the decision that State Parliament will make and which ever way that goes, it will be the decision of the umpire and one we will abide by."

Cr Tony Driscoll said the process had been a lengthy one and now all parties would await the decision by the State Government.

"This entire process has been very forensic and very exhaustive," he said.

"However, we can take solace in that fact that all areas have been covered. Now the decision will be made by the State Government and we will need to abide by whatever decision that is."

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