Opposition to big incinerator grows

Lara community members on the steps of Parliament House. (Supplied)

Matt Hewson

Opponents of the proposed waste to energy facility in Lara had a win last week when state parliament’s upper house backed a community-led petition calling for the planning minister to reject the facility.

Greens member Dr Sarah Mansfield tabled the petition before the Legislative Council, on Wednesday, March 6, calling for Planning Minister Sonya Kilkenny to “put people first” and “knock this project off”.

The petition also received supportive comments from David Ettershank from the Legalise Cannabis Party and Greens leader Dr Samantha Ratnam.

The sole voice of opposition to the petition was Labor’s Sheena Watt, who told the Council energy from waste was an “important and exciting link to the sustainable waste management chain” and the government’s waste energy framework “strikes the right balance”.

The proposed facility would incinerate around 400,000 tonnes of waste per year, generating nearly 36 megawatts of energy.

The Environmental Protections Authority Victoria (EPA) green-lit the project in December 2023, granting a development licence with a number of conditions.

The matter is about to go before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after local businesses and organisations joined to appeal the EPA’s decision. The appeal process is expected to run until mid-August.

Charles Street, president of grassroots organisation No Waste Incinerators in Lara & Greater Geelong Incorporated, was instrumental in organising the petition tabled by Dr Mansfield.

He said the “Lara big incinerator project has no friends” and “any support this proposal has… is evaporating fast”.

“We know the mood of the community… but we now have that statement from the Committee for Geelong, which is a very significant organisation, and they’ve certainly come out against (the facility),” Mr Street said.

“Our expectation is that the opposition from the business community is only likely to harden.”

Proponents of the facility, Prospect Hill International, said energy from waste technology aligned with the Victorian EPA’s policies, which were important as Victoria and Australia faced a “waste crisis”.

“The community can be assured that Prospect Hill International proposes to develop a state-of-the-art facility that meets all stringent EPA Victoria and European emissions standards,” a spokesperson said.

“Prospect Hill International recognises the concerns of the community. The issuing of the development licence is recognition by the EPA that the proposed facility will meet best practice measures and stringent environmental standards.

“As the project progresses into the next phase, we see this as an opportunity to re-establish relationships with community members about the project. We are committed to ensuring community members are kept informed and we will continue to listen to their concerns.”

State member for Lara Ella George said she would not support a proposal the community opposed.

“I have attended community meetings, spoken to many residents, local organisations and businesses, and the message is clear: the Lara community does not support the proposed waste to energy facility,” Ms George said.

“I have raised the community’s concerns… with the Minister for Environment and the Minister for Planning. It is my expectation that the community’s views are taken very seriously as part of the assessment of this proposal, and I will continue to advocate for the Lara community.”