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Ministerial intervention needed for Princes Highway West

Liberal Member for Western Victoria, Simon Ramsay, has called on Ministerial intervention to end a bitter dispute between landholders in the Birregurra district.

The dispute has stopped progress on the $363 million duplication of the Princes Highway West.

Mr Ramsay said the Roads Minister Luke Donnellan and Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, need to step in the make sure the duplication can be completed next year.

“The acrimony between once peaceful and caring neighbours has erupted in all-out war because of a planned Windfarm, a quarry and material needed for the duplication of Princes Highway West.

“This trifecta is disastrous.

“With the approval of a 44-turbine windfarm by Acciona, came Heads of Agreement contracts prohibiting the extraction of construction materials within a 15km radius. A resident was then denied approval to build a quarry on his property, as was a company called MCG Quarries.

“MCG Quarries was finally given ministerial approval, but with 87 conditions,” said Mr Ramsay.

But, in annoyance with those conditions, MCG Quarries has since objected to VCAT about the company that is extracting clay from neighbouring properties to build a section of the highway duplication.

“BMD’s clay extraction for road works is standard for such projects, but the objection by MCG Quarries could potentially delay the project significantly and increase the cost by $12 million,” he said.

Adding to this, MCG Quarries is now taking Federal Court action to sue local landholders who have signed the heads of agreement with Acciona for the 15km quarry buffer.

“This has led to a total breakdown of relationships with many families scarred for life.

“What was once prime food production land has slowly turned into an Industrial wasteland due to the planning decisions of the Andrews Government.

“Claims of bullying, intimidation, threats of legal action and bitter criticism are now part of the conversation in this area where it used to be about rainfall, stock and wool prices and pasture growth.

“Long established families are facing financial oblivion and emotional ruin, whilst the Andrews Government seems oblivious of the mess it has created.

Mr Ramsay said the Colac Otway Shire has a limited role as peace maker and more a role of policeman ensuring permit conditions are adhered.

“But this issue requires a more immediate response from the Government before things really get out of hand”, Mr Ramsay said.

“I use to farm in the district and I cannot bear to see lifelong friends and neighbours tearing themselves apart.

“This is a community that looked after its own but now is being drawn into battle lines in a fight between financial self-interest with little regard for fellow neighbours and land use preservation.

Mr Ramsay said the Victorian Government must get involved because taxpayer’s money is now in play.

“The potential increased costs in the highway duplication due to the delays caused by the legal action will gouge a hole in the VicRoads budget.

“Only this way may the Minister for Roads take notice and, with the Planning Minister, intervene into what is turning into a horrible mess.