Council’s standing its ground

Existing landholders and prospective developers in the Traralgon south-east area have council’s assurance there is no unacceptable risk of land movement or instability.

It has been more than a year since Latrobe City officers were blindsided by AGL Loy Yang evidence that suggested mine-related ground instability stretched into Traralgon’s urban patches.

Despite a 2015 Planning Panels Victoria recommendation to double the existing one-kilometre buffer in the “interim” and the matter resurfacing in a separate planning panel hearing last month, council is standing its ground.

“At this point in time, based on the evidence we’ve got – our own work we’ve done – council has adopted a position that we don’t support widening the buffer,” Latrobe City planning services manager Gail Gatt said.

“So until such a time as any new information, new evidence or new risk assessment is undertaken by the State Government or AGL Loy Yang, then council’s position remains.”

A council-commissioned peer review of AGL’s evidence and qualitative risk assessment suggest there is a low risk of instability beyond the one-kilometre buffer.

Council has therefore refused to double the buffer until it receives evidence that shows the expansion is necessary.

An AGL spokesperson told The Express the company placed the highest priority on safety for its people, customers and the community.

“While AGL has not formally pursued a two-kilometre buffer, its position is that a precautionary approach be applied to land planning within close proximity to mines,” the spokesperson said.

“Large coal mines can present geotechnical challenges and risks that extend beyond the crest of mines and which need to be factored into orderly town planning.”

The spokesperson pointed to recommendations from the June 2015 planning panel report on the Traralgon Growth Areas Review.

The report found geotechnical risks associated with mines could be significant; the expansion and intensification of residential land use along the southern and south-eastern fringe of Traralgon was inappropriate; and existing buffer zones should be expanded to two kilometres to the east and south of Traralgon until a more specifically defined risk mitigation width was defined.

“Good planning will reduce public health and amenity risks in the future,” the AGL spokesperson said.

But Ms Gatt said council was awaiting direction and guidance from the State Government before it made any significant changes.

“One of the issues we’re dealing with is the constraints we’ve got in the Latrobe Valley in regard to urban growth or expanding our towns,” Ms Gatt said.

“Obviously we’ve got lots of coal buffers, we’ve got flood plains, we’ve got bushfire risks, we’ve got high quality agricultural land we need to protect.

“There are a lot of constraints, so any further constraint can be a concern in that regard in terms of land-use planning and long-term growth of our town.”

The State Government did not respond to The Express before going to print.

A copy of the council-commissioned reports can be downloaded at www.latrobe.vic.gov.au/c97