PORT IN A STORM

Pow­er­house plan in limbo amid fresh le­gal chal­lenge

Geelong Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - GREG DUN­DAS

THE tech hub planned for North Gee­long’s for­mer power sta­tion site is in limbo, with a new le­gal chal­lenge launched against the pro­ject by users of the neigh­bour­ing port.

The pro­posed de­vel­op­ment is fore­cast to de­liver up to 1000 hi-tech jobs on the dis­used water­front site, but ob­jec­tors say it would threaten the jobs of wharfies, farm­ers and oth­ers who rely on the Port of Gee­long.

The Mackey St de­vel­op­ment is now bound for the Vic­to­rian Civil and Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal, with GrainCorp, the Vic­to­rian Re­gional Channels Au­thor­ity and the Bar­rett Burston Malt­ing Com­pany all launch­ing ap­peals, and the Vic­to­rian Farmer’s Fed­er­a­tion con­firm­ing its op­po­si­tion to the pro­ject.

THE tech hub planned for North Gee­long’s for­mer power sta­tion site is in limbo, with a new le­gal chal­lenge launched against the pro­ject by users of the neigh­bour­ing port.

The pro­posed de­vel­op­ment is fore­cast to de­liver up to 1000 hi-tech jobs on the dis­used water­front site, but ob­jec­tors say it would threaten the jobs of wharfies, farm­ers and oth­ers who rely on the Port of Gee­long.

After be­ing ap­proved by a City of Greater Gee­long plan­ning com­mit­tee last month, the Mackey St de­vel­op­ment is now bound for a hear­ing at the Vic­to­rian Civil and Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal.

GrainCorp, the Vic­to­rian Re­gional Channels Au­thor­ity and the Bar­rett Burston Malt­ing Com­pany have all launched ap­peals to the tri­bunal, and the Vic­to­rian Farmer’s Fed­er­a­tion has also con­firmed its op­po­si­tion to the pro­ject.

It’s ex­pected the tri­bunal will ap­point a panel to hear the ob­jec­tions later this year.

The ob­jec­tors say the de­vel­op­ment of an of­fice com­plex close to the Port of Gee­long would in­hibit the port’s abil­ity to op­er­ate ef­fi­ciently, ar­gu­ing the site — pre­vi­ously home to the Pow­er­house graf­fiti art dis- play — should main­tain its in­dus­trial zon­ing.

They fear the of­fice com­plex would in­evitably lead to com­plaints about trucks, noise and dust com­ing from the port, and that such com­plaints might prompt tighter re­stric­tions on the port’s op­er­a­tion.

“At the mo­ment we can op- er­ate the port 24/7, which means the Vic­to­rian sup­ply chain has a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage,” GrainCorp’s Craig Cochrane said. “The idea they (the de­vel­op­ers) have got sounds fan­tas­tic, it’s just the wrong place for it.”

The David Hamil­ton Prop­erty Group is be­hind the pro- posed seven-storey com­plex.

Spokesman Cameron Hamil­ton said it was frus­trat­ing to hit a new de­lay. He said his firm was close to se­cur­ing a ma­jor ten­ant for the fa­cil­ity from out­side Gee­long, but the holdup might see the busi­ness move else­where in re­gional Vic­to­ria.

“It is def­i­nitely in jeop­ardy (be­cause of the de­lay). We’re do­ing our best to come up with a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion for them,” Mr Hamil­ton said.

“We think it’s a de­lay­ing tac­tic (from the ob­jec­tors), so we’re keen to get the mat­ter in front of VCAT as soon as pos­si­ble and get it re­solved.”

VRCA chief Michael Har­vey said trade through the Port of Gee­long was ex­pected to dou­ble in the next 30 years, but that would only be pos­si­ble if it was “able to main­tain its so­cial li­cence to op­er­ate”.

“The city has grown up around the port … it’s an in­dus­trial site,” he said.

“I be­lieve it (the power sta­tion pro­posal) would, at some point in time, con­strain the op­er­a­tional flex­i­bil­ity or ef­fi­ciency of the port. The port sup­ports a lot of jobs and a lot of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, and we want to grow that not con­strain it.”

But Mr Hamil­ton said his firm’s pro­ject promised huge eco­nomic ben­e­fits for Gee­long’s north­ern suburbs, where un­em­ploy­ment was tra­di­tion­ally high, and had sup­port from other busi­ness.

“It’s aimed at ex­pand­ing on the suc­cess of the (nearby) Fed­eral Mills of­fice space. We orig­i­nally planned to have food and drink (out­lets) in­cor­po­rated into the pro­ject, but there were ob­jec­tions to that, so we re­moved that part of the plan. Un­for­tu­nately, it now looks like that wasn’t enough for them,” he said. “If there’s prob­lems with their op­er­a­tion then they need to clean that up. If there’s no prob­lem they won’t have any con­cerns”.

A date for the VCAT hear­ing is yet to be set.

WAIT­ING GAME: De­vel­oper Cameron Hamil­ton from David Hamil­ton Prop­erty Group and, in­set, the Addy on De­cem­ber 13.

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