After nearly two years of setbacks and challenges through VCAT and council, The Eastern Golf Club has finally received approval for their development plans for the proposed new site at Yering in the Yarra Valley.
Yarra Ranges Council this week voted in favour of the proposal, with seven Councillors voting in favour of the application, with only two voting against.
In a letter to EGC Members, the EGC Board reported that Supporting Councillors spoke positively and highlighted the benefits the proposal would bring to the entire region, including significant environmental improvements. National and International tourism opportunities were also highlighted through the addition of a world-class Greg Norman-designed golf course, further enhancing the region’s reputation to rival that of the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas.
The Club proposes to invest $49 million building the new facility, creating hundreds of jobs during construction and an additional 35 permanent jobs upon completion. The 600 acre site with gentle rolling hills will have an 11 hectare wetland system created and 400,000 plantings with 95% indigenous species. The 27-hole golf course will see the implementation of a 30m riparian buffer to the Yarra River and use over 150 mega litres of Class B recycled water that is currently disposed of into Olinda Creek that in turn flows into the Yarra River.
Central to addressing the environmental matters, the Club completed an extensive quantitative human health and ecological risk assessment as part of the application, believed to be an Australian first for the golf industry. This assessment was subjected to incredible rigour of review by Melbourne Water with peer reviews conducted by Australia’s leading consultants and academics as well as arguably the world’s leading academic on pesticides.
Club General Manager, Benjamin Telley said “This is obviously a great outcome for the Club, but also it represents a great achievement for environmental planning and environmental management as we believe a new benchmark has been set”. The Club hopes other developments in the future will choose to follow suit.
The proposal only received one formal objection from a developer, Bill Boerkamp whose case appeared only to be based on planning issues previously unsupported by VCAT.
A late objection was received from Anthony Amis of Friends of the Earth, although it appeared based little on any facts or evidence.
Mr Telley said “for Mr Amis to suggest that we would likely use pesticides other than those approved, is completely inappropriate and a cheap scare tactic that demonstrates a complete lack of respect to the intelligence of the broader community and to the authorities involved in assessing planning applications.” Mr Telley added “It is unfortunate that Friends of the Earth sought not to understand the work that has been undertaken and to be informed despite repeated offers by the Club”.
The Club, voted 2011 ‘Club of the Year’ by Clubs Victoria, will wait to see whether the decision is appealed at VCAT before commencing construction. Council will formally notify of the decision within seven (7) days, and then there is 21 days for parties to appeal. If no one appeals, then construction can start in early 2013. If the club, however, is required to go to VCAT to respond to an appeal –and if they win — then construction will begin mid 2013
In October of last year, the Club had lodged a new planning application with the Shire of Yarra Ranges, as their previous attempt hit a stumbling block by VCAT due to concerns regarding floodplains and pesticides.
Among the many changes in the revised masterplan were modifications to the carpark and maintenance facility to comply with 1-in-100-year flood levels, creation of emergency access routes, redesign of a storage dam, and slight adjustments to six of the course’s 27 holes. Eastern’s project team also completed an extensive Tier 2 Assessment of the pesticides and biocides proposed to be used on the golf course and turf farm, as well as a Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment to address the potential impact of pathogens from the subject site.