THE Supreme Court has dismissed a hard-fought, long-running appeal by the Stanley community against a decision by Victoria’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal to allow groundwater to be taken from the plateau for treatment and sale as bottled water.
Justice Michael McDonald on Monday rejected action brought by an advocacy organisation known as Stanley Rural Community Incorporated against a VCAT decision late last year that enabled Stanley Pastoral to proceed to take and store groundwater on a small farm south of the village for transport to Albury for processing.
Stanley Pastoral is owned by the Carey family and headed by Tim Carey, who is chairman of the Australasian Bottled Water Institute – a division of the Australian Beverages Council.
VCAT late last year upheld an appeal by Stanley Pastoral against a decision by Indigo Shire Council in May 2015 to refuse the company a planning application for an existing groundwater bore to be used a “utility installation” for bulk water extraction, storage and transfer.
VCAT’s ruling enabled Stanley Pastoral to begin taking up to 19 megalitres of groundwater per year from the property under a licence granted late in 2013 by Goulburn-Murray Water.
SRCI contested the VCAT decision in an appeal to the Supreme Court.
But this week the court found that Stanley Pastoral did not require a permit from Indigo council to take the water.
Justice McDonald said the licence issued by G-MW under the Water Act was not “expressly limited” by any provision of the Planning and Environment Act or the Indigo planning scheme, as argued by SRCI.
Indigo council – rejecting Stanley Pastoral’s planning application – did so because it found that the proposal would lead directly to the loss of “high quality agricultural land” on the Stanley plateau – land which the council sought to protect through a primary environmental significance overlay in its planning scheme.
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