Western Highway duplication could face VCAT challenge from Keep Original Route Supporters

The Western Highway will be duplicated between Ararat and Buangor. This picture shows the current highway on the right, and the railway line heading east to Buangor. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

The Western Highway will be duplicated between Ararat and Buangor. This picture shows the current highway on the right, and the railway line heading east to Buangor. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

THE Keep Original Route Supporters have threatened to open up another legal front in its opposition to the Western Highway Duplication.

Buangor landowner MairiAnne Mackenzie has told Ararat Rural City Council that the KORS group would challenge any planning permit granted for a borrow pit for the duplication project.

“KORS will also challenge the granting of a borrow-pit permit in VCAT,” Ms Mackenzie’s written deposition stated.

A borrow pit is an area where soil has been dug for use at another location at a major construction project.

Ms Mackenzie gave a public deposition to councillors.

“I think it’s premature to give the planning permit to the borrow pit for the highway because the incorporated document has not been approved by Victoria’s Planning Minister, Richard Wynne,” she said.

“There’s no certainty about that happening.

“In addition, the group KORS has indicated it will challenge the issue of a permit, so it might be more of a problem than it’s worth.”

Ms Mackenzie also pointed to recent media coverage of Aboriginal elder Ted Lovett declaring that trees in the project’s path had cultural significance.

Mr Lovett and other Indigenous women disputed Aboriginal Victoria’s ruling that there was no culturally significant trees in the area.

Mr Lovett told Fairfax Media last month that any Aboriginal elder would see at least five scar trees in the area near Buangor.

Three women have also said there are birthing trees in the area.

“I have been up there, I have seen them, I have actually seen the trees,” Mr Lovett said

“There are about five scar trees – I am an elder, but I was not involved in any discussions about these trees.”

Ms Ms Mackenzie told Ararat Rural City councillors that they should defer a planning decision on the pit.

“Those trees may be found to have Aboriginal significance,” she said.

“Deferment may be better.”

Ms Mackenzie took on the combined authority of VicRoads and the planning minister in October as part of a mission to stop a highway upgrade slicing through part of her rural property.

Ms Mackenzie also wanted to save scores of large native trees from destruction when the Western Highway is duplicated between Buangor and Ararat.

Work to duplicate the highway between Ballarat and Stawell was suspended in February because VicRoads failed to renew an expired planning permit.

VicRoads also admitted in 2015 that a surveying error led to the destruction of 700 large old trees to widen the highway between Beaufort and Buangor.

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