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Kingston councillors refuse to budge on extending life of Alex Fraser facility

Kingston City Council councillors have voted against a second application by Alex Fraser Group to extend the life of its recycling operations at Clarinda.

On Wednesday evening, councillors denied the application to extend the life of the facility by 15 years, which means the Clarinda Recycling Facility would need to move by 2023.

The council’s initial decision to deny the application was made on November 25, with no changes in sight after the majority of councillors voted against the extension on December 11.

The Clarinda Recycling Facility has the capacity to recycle up to one million tonnes every year. In 2020, it will increase its recycling by 200 million bottles per year, including glass from Kingston kerbside collections.

The latest blow has Alex Fraser Group managing director Peter Murphy continually concerned that the council is not recognising the implications this decision will have on the greater community.

“Kingston City Council’s decision is at odds with Victoria’s Recycling Industry Strategic Plan, which aims to stabilise the recycling industry and provide access to markets.

“If [the] Clarinda Recycling Facility is shut down, it will have consequences on Victoria’s recycling, and the supply of material to the state’s infrastructure projects, increasing costs to taxpayers,” Murphy said.

However, Kingston City Council deputy mayor Steve Staikos, who moved the motion to refuse the extension, explained that steps taken by the council in 2015 to designate the area as a Green Wedge “A zone” needed to be honoured.

The purpose of the Green Wedge A zone is to provide for use of the land to preserve, conserve and enhance biodiversity, natural resources, scenic landscapes and the heritage values of the area, Staikos said.

He said the area needs to be transitions into a place that the residents in Clarinda, Clayton South, Oakleigh South and Heatherton were promised.

Staikos explained that he supported the refusal of the extension as while the site won’t form the core park land, it will be adjacent to the core park land proposed for the area.

Councillor Rosemary West, who seconded the motion, explained that Alex Fraser has had long enough to find a new site.

“Right from the start in 2008, Alex Fraser knew they had to quit the site in 15 years. To now claim they need more time is preposterous. Allowing the extension would set an appalling precedent.

“I want to see our green wedge protected for future generations,” West said.

Councillors who voted in favour of refusing the extension included Staikos, West, councillor David Eden, councillor Tamara Barth and mayor Georgina Oxley.

Those against the motion included councillor Ron Brownlees, councillor Tamsin Bearsley
and councillor Geoff Gledhill. Councillor George Hua abstained from voting.

Brownlees argued that the proposed park land in the area would go ahead irrespective of the Clarinda Recycling Facility’s location. “It’s not dependant on this land,” he said.

“It is operating an important resource recovery facility. Some people might say it’s a concrete crusher – it’s a bit more than just a concrete crusher. It provides a lot for the economy in terms of jobs and for the resources needed in the development of our surrounding community,” Brownlees said.

Bearsley said that it was a difficult decision for the council to make.

“Twenty-two hectares close to Melbourne is actually really difficult to find. There have been government organisations working with Alex Fraser to find something, but that is a very hard amount of land to find where it’s not going to inconvenience another set of residents. It’s expect that it will take them some time to find that,” Bearsley said.

To give the local community certainty about the fixed term of its application for an extension, Alex Fraser put forward a Community Benefits Package – giving the Kingston community ownership of its 22 hectares of land once the facility has moved, along with $7.5 million to put towards sports and recreation facilities.

Murphy said that the Kingston City Council’s decision not to consider this offer has denied its residents a significant expansion to the ‘Chain of Parks’.

“We are considering all of our options and will do whatever we can to see this decision overturned.

“This is clearly an issue of state significance, so we are calling on state government to intervene,” Murphy told Inside Waste.

“While we’ve been working to resolve this at a local level, the state government is acutely aware of the significant impact closure would have on the state’s environment and economy.”

Murphy said that the Alex Fraser Group understands and is committed to moving the Clarinda recycling facility, but more time is needed to do so.

“We have been looking for alternative sites for many years now, and we continue to do so.”

Murphy explained that the request to extend the life of the facility in its current location by 15 years was made as there are no alternative sites available by 2023.