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Stinking point: residents take stand on smelly tip expansion

Locals refuse to hold their nose as the state government pushes development plans at a controversial rubbish dump, writes Bethany Duncan.

Residents in south-east Melbourne are fighting back against plans to expand operations at their local tip, amid complaints the stench from the site is already overwhelming the area.

A garbage truck driving on the intersection of Hallam Road, the South Gippsland Highway and Evans Rd. Photo: Bethany Duncan

What was once just a transient odour that swept through Lynbrook and its neighbouring suburbs has developed into a stench that impacts quality of life, and residents say a state government plan to expand operations will only make it worse.

The Hampton Park Hill Tip was rumoured to be facing closure years ago. However, the tip is being maintained -- and expanded - due to the crisis sparked in January 2018 when Australia could no longer send its waste to China, said Dr John Theodoridis, a local resident who has a PhD in geophysics. China previously handled roughly 'half of the world's recyclable waste' – especially from Australia.

“If you remember, China was taking our exportable [recyclable] waste – when that stopped, we were stuck with our waste ... that triggered this [statewide infrastructure plan],” Dr Theodoridis said.

Demolition machines digging up land at the Hampton Park Resource Recovery Facility. Photo: Bethany Duncan

Two juxtaposed signs on one of the gates to the Hampton Park Resource Recovery Facility. Photo: Bethany Duncan

The Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan (SWRRIP 2018) is a long-term plan that aims to improve Victoria’s means of managing waste and recycling. Within this is the Draft Hampton Park Hill Development Plan, which will convert the site into a waste transfer facility.

This means that at least 10 of Victoria’s municipalities will be transporting non-recyclable waste to the local tip for sorting. There will also be an increase of trucks on the road, air pollution of PM2.5 particles and operational hours at the tip.

Many members of the Lynbrook, Cranbourne, Narre Warren South and Hampton Park area are not happy about this decision.

Lorraine Pratley, who lives in the area, said the smell from the tip was unbearable and was only going to get worse.

“I’ve gone to my local park area on a weekend morning to exercise, and you just can’t do it because of the foul smell that’s hanging in the air.”

She said she empathised with those living much closer. Residents share their stories in a Facebook group ‘We Say No! To Hampton Park Hill’. The group is a platform for local residents to receive information, updates and education about tip developments.

“The story that I read in that group – from the resident who said that it’s affecting her marriage – [said] she’d been more keen to buy the house than her husband. They had unknowingly purchased the house quite close to the tip.”

The tip’s close proximity to residential homes is having an exponential effect on the locals’ lives. Photo: Bethany Duncan

Michael Ouellette, a member of the group, said it was difficult to know where to get updates on the tip.

“Nowadays I’m not sure who to trust about anything,” he said.

“It’s the only source of information I have at this point.”

“If you don’t watch the news, you’re uninformed – if you do watch the news, you’re misinformed,” Mr Ouellette said, paraphrasing Denzel Washington’s quote regarding media credibility.

‘We Say No!’ banner fixed to the fence of a home near the tip. Photo: Bethany Duncan

Residents had an idea of what they were facing moving next to a tip, but said they had not expected to be let down by a government they thought they could trust. Members of the group believe that Gary Maas –the Labor MP for Narre Warren South – has been blocking their tip-related comments on his Facebook page.

Ms Pratley said she wanted to see if this was true. “I tested it out for myself, and I was blocked within a couple hours.”

Mr Ouellette and other group members said there had been no action taken on reports of air pollution they had sent to the Environment Protection Authority.

‘’I think the EPA should do its job,” he said.

“You guys are useless, you’re a toothless tiger.”

Dr Theodoridis said the Andrews government, rather than the EPA, bore the brunt of the blame.

“There’s no short answer ... the breadcrumbs lead right back to the state government.”

Late last year, about 200 people attended a protest rally at the site at which Dr Theodoridis spoke. He said a broad spectrum of people attended the event. “We wanted to appear apolitical ... [there were] Liberals, Greens, ... Greens ... some independent,” he said.

Mr Maas did not attend the rally.

“I was disappointed about that because he is the one who is pivotal,” Dr Theodoridis said.

A garbage truck on its way out of the landfill site to collect waste. Photo: Bethany Duncan

Residents say there has been no real change in response to the rally.

However, Dr Theodoridis said he remained optimistic.

“We didn’t exactly blitzkrieg them with it ... but it was more of the annoying mosquito effect. Until we overturn that bloody SWRRIP, we’re not going to get anywhere."


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