Land care victory, but not the end
- The Lara Care Group
On July 26, 2016, administrators appointed by the Victorian Government, sent to replace the sacked Geelong City Council, voted unanimously to refuse Permit 692/2015: a proposal from Bisinella Developments to build a sand quarry at the foot of the You Yangs National Park.
Lara is a place of development, a place of change, a place of prosperity. Kangaroos leap aside the road to the You Yangs, directing one’s gaze to the tree-swamped hills above. Only minutes from the humble township, and no more than an hour from the hive of Melbourne, these hills are a discovery of unique Australian beauty.
Whoosh, brrrrr, whoosh… Half a dozen, maybe more, cargo trains whir past. Where are these cargo-wielding bullets headed, and more importantly, where was their origin? A constant stream, a factory line, of trucks, appear from the expanse of forest, and as quickly, disappear into the depths of civilization.
‘Round the bend of Sandy Creek road, dense speckled green and sweeping plains are shadowed by the peaks, and scarred by slashes of brown. Companies are responsible for the craters of dirt, dug to reveal the holes of exposed disused earth. The cavities sit idle; a world away from development and mining, but those unseen from the road are responsible for the drone of filled cargo trains.
Lara is beautiful, yet Lara is scarred.
Community advocates fought for the pain the land has endured, and have gained a courageous, albeit unstable, victory.
“Our quarry proposal has been approved by the State Government, [however] a planning permit is requires from the local planning authority, the Greater Geelong City Council. It is our planning application that has been refused by the Council administrators.”
Corporate Affairs Manager of L. Bisinella Developments David Withington (25 September 2016)
A map of the You Yangs Regional Park, with the disused sand mine nearby
Bisinella Developments has accused the Council administrators of jeopardising the future of development and construction industries in the area, pointing to the You Yangs as an ideal location for extracting sand and stone products.
Corporate Affairs Manager David Withington said the decision undermines the Victorian Government’s plan for designating certain areas in the state for extractive industries.
“A recent State Government report designated the City of Greater Geelong as one of five priority regions for extractive industries in Victoria, but the Administrators’ decision effectively undermines the Government’s strategy,” Mr Withington said.
The company has pointed to the You Yangs as an ideal location for extracting sand and stone products, with other companies, Holcim and Hanson, both looking to extend their mining capabilities.
“Bisinella is synonymous with quality landscaping and environmental excellence and would have applied these same values to the new quarry. This is in stark contrast to the disgraceful state of neighbouring quarries.”
Soldiers in Arms
Getting to know the community of Lara
LARA, YOU YANGS REGIONAL PARK - The rain lightened up by the time we arrived at the park on the 19th of August to meet Barry White and Sally Nicholas, two current members of the Lara Care Group, a non-for-profit organization fighting for the sustainability and protection of land in the areas surrounding the You Yangs, Hovells Creek and Lascelles Dam. After showing us around the proposed site and other affected locations through sand quarrying, we sat down for an interview with them over their recent victory.
As residents of Lara, Sally is also the secretariat of the You Yangs protection group, while Barry has been President of the Lara Care Group since 2008.
Q: How do you feel about the proposed mine being rejected recently?
SALLY: Oh, extremely happy! Once it was put up on Facebook that we’d won, the post was shared and comments were amazing.
BARRY: It’s been great that the community has got behind opposition to this. We would hope that that’s the end of the story, but we realise that we’re competing against big businesses with plenty of resources, so galvanising the community has been a very important part of the process.
Q: How has the community helped?
SALLY: They signed an online petition, which was put up a few months ago, and the response to that was enormous. [They also] supported our Facebook page, giving us feedback. We had a couple of community meetings, and once people found out, they were very concerned that something like this was going to be at the doorstep of the You Yangs Regional Park.
Q: How have the sand mines affected the Lara community?
BARRY: I think from Lara’s point of view, a lot of people didn’t understand what was happening. One thing this issue has done is draw attention to how much damage is going on. Well, certainly we are very upset, because there are so many different groups involved. This is an area of great significance in terms of recreation, conservation and sport. It’s a great place for families, and the fact that there was no consideration given to making it known to the community what was happening, was of great concern.
Q: Personally what does this land mean to you?
SALLY: I live very close to here and I run a remedial massage business. I have clients that speak of the peacefulness when they come, and that’s why they drive out here to see me.
BARRY: I’ve been coming out here since as long as I can remember. [Since I was] seven or eight years old, for family picnics and other things. As a family recreation area, it was an iconic location. Everybody spoke about if they were going to go out for the weekend for picnics, they come to the You Yangs.
A Ravaged Battle Site
Loh Wan Li
The war began about thirty years ago, when sludge filled water from Hillview Quarry at Sandy Creek Road, Little River was diverted around Lascelles Dam and into Hovells Creek. The diversion has created a massive erosion that produced a gully about four and a half meters deep, causing the level of the creek bed to drop. Fifteen years later, the sand mining and quarrying operations required more water resource and cut off all the water supply to Lascelles Dam.
In the 19th century the Armytage family’s efforts had blessed the location with harmonious melodies formed by the laughter of family picnics, sound of rowing regattas gliding on the lake and birds chirping among the river gum trees. Red River Gums at the Lascelles Dam are also used for roosting by cormorants, herons and other water birds.
In 1991 the upper section of Hovells Creek and the Lascelles Dam were listed as places of national significance in the report “Sites of Faunal Significance in the Western Wetlands of Melbourne” by The Department of Conservation and Environment Study. They hold 261 species of birds, thirty-four animals including marsupials monotremes, reptiles, bats and frogs. They have high species diversity because of a large number of mature Red River Gums around Lascelles Dam.