News

VCAT appeal under way

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February 23, 2017

A proposal to build a drug and alcohol rehab centre in Moira Shire is currently before VCAT.

A proposal to build a residential facility near Numurkah for the rehabilitation of people addicted to drugs and alcohol has gone under the microscope at a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal sitting in Melbourne.

The case, which opened on Monday, has reached VCAT as the Australian Community Support Organisation appeals the refusal of Moira Shire Council to grant a planning permit for the proposed centre.

The ACSO appeal asks VCAT to consider the planning merits of the proposal for the centre on Watters Rd, Brookfield, about 7km south-east of Numurkah, in a hearing which may extend for up to five days this week.

VCAT senior member Laurie Hewet and member Ann Keddie are hearing the case.

Moira Shire Council has been divided on the matter since a meeting last July, when the initial application was considered.

A subsequent special meeting of council voted 5-4 to refuse the permit.

For the council, Ian Pridgeon of Russell Kennedy Solicitors opened by recalling a range of concerns, giving particular reference to the flooding overlay governing permit applications in the shire, and whether all or most of the proposed site was subject to flooding and how often.

The site sits adjacent to the Nine Mile Creek and currently includes housing and some shedding.

Other elements on the council agenda include bushfire possibilities and the related road capability to deal with a fire event, and road engineering in terms of the anticipated number of residents and staff at the proposed centre.

Other parties to the appeal to VCAT include the CFA and a range of individual objectors, some of whom are linked under the title Wunghnu Action Group.

Most of these parties, together with ACSO, the council and the CFA, have legal representation.

The tribunal has received written submissions from all parties and individuals have been invited to address their submissions.

Eight objectors were present when the hearing opened.

One objector has filmed and submitted a DVD almost an hour long for VCAT consideration, but has so far declined to appear in person to address the tribunal about the concerns reflected in the DVD.

Mr Hewet and Ms Keddie said they would travel from Melbourne to the site during the week for a private inspection.

ACSO’s case is being handled by barrister Emily Porter.

While the case has VCAT provision to run for five days, hearing various statements and expert evidence, Mr Hewet said a case such as this rarely had its decision announced at the end of the hearing.

A ‘‘reserved finding’’ was the anticipated situation by Friday, with the formal decision to follow in writing in coming weeks.

An ACSO proposal in 2015 to build a similar centre at Mooroopna was abandoned in the face of immediate and vigorous ratepayer opposition.

A similar residential centre has operated for several years, apparently without serious incident, at Molyullah near Benalla after initial controversy surrounding that facility.

The hearing continues this week.

—Alan McLean

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