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Ombudsman investigates EPA’s approval of spoil location sites for West Gate Tunnel Project



The Victorian Ombudsman has launched an investigation into the Environment Protection Authority’s decisions to approve sites to receive spoil from the West Gate Tunnel Project.

The investigation follows community concern about where tonnes of spoil from the West Gate Tunnel Project will be located and complaints made to the Ombudsman’s office about the project. 

The EPA initially approved environment management plans for three sites to receive the spoil generated from tunnel boring machines. But in December 2020, it revoked the decisions following challenges in the Supreme Court from community groups.

In early 2021, the EPA approved new environment management plans for the same three sites to receive spoil from the project. West Gate Tunnel Project’s builders, John Holland CPB Joint Venture, selected the Hi-Quality Quarry site in Bulla in June this year to receive the spoil. 

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said the probe would investigate the adequacy of the EPA’s decision-making.  

“I am concerned without the actions of the community groups, the deficiencies in the EPA’s decisions may not have been identified,” Ms Glass said. 

“The community deserves to know if correct processes were followed when it came to deciding where tonnes of spoil could be disposed of, especially given the proximity to homes. 

“I am aware of the strength of some community feeling in this matter and it is important I make clear that this investigation cannot stop the construction of the West Gate Tunnel. Nor can the Ombudsman make binding orders about where the spoil should go.” 

The investigation will consider: 

1. the EPA’s decision-making and approvals for sites operated by Maddingley Brown Coal Pty Ltd in Bacchus Marsh, Cleanaway Operations Pty Ltd in Ravenhall, and Hi-Quality Quarry Products Pty Ltd in Bulla

2. whether the EPA had proper regard for the principles set out in the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic)

3. whether, the EPA acted compatibly with, and gave proper consideration to, human rights identified in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) 

The investigation is expected to be completed by the end of 2021. Ms Glass will then report to Parliament and the public on her findings. 

Ms Glass is seeking submissions from identified community groups. 

The Ombudsman’s investigation is separate and unrelated to the Supreme Court proceedings relating to the disposal of spoil and planning scheme amendments made by the Planning Minister. 

The Ombudsman is also unable to investigate the decisions and actions of members of Parliament except in limited circumstances, which do not apply to this investigation. If the investigation raises issues not within the Ombudsman's powers to deal with, they will be set out in the public report. 

No further comment will be made on this investigation.

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