THE Stanley community is to pursue its legal battle against commercial groundwater extraction on the farming-rich Stanley plateau south east of Beechworth.
Stanley Rural Community Incorporated chairman Ed Tyrie confirmed this week that a special meeting of the community advocacy organisation’s members on Saturday had voted unanimously to appeal last month’s Victorian Supreme Court decision to allow a water wholesaling company to take up to 19 million litres per year from a farm near Cue Springs.
SRCI has spearheaded a long-running campaign against a decision by Goulburn-Murray water to grant a commercial groundwater licence late in 2013 to a company called Stanley Pastoral.
The firm is controlled by the Carey family and markets water it takes from bores in the North East to Asahi Schweppes in Albury, where it is bottled for retail distribution and sale.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal late in 2015 upheld Stanley Pastoral’s right to use the licence after Indigo Shire Council rejected a planning application from the company to build water storage and truck-loading facilities at its Cue Springs’ property.
SRCI subsequently appealed the VCAT ruling to the Supreme Court last year.
But Justice Michael McDonald dismissed the community’s appeal in December when he 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 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.
But the court recounted the VCAT reasoning that the Indigo planning scheme did not include a specific provision, which it was empowered to have under the Planning and Environment Act, naming groundwater extraction as a land use for which a planning permit would be required.
Justice McDonald said that section 8 of the Water Act gave Stanley Pastoral a statutory right at the time the G-MW licence was issued to take and use the water, as licenced.
Mr Tyrie said 30 members at the weekend meeting agreed to ask the Court of Appeal to review Justice McDonald’s decision.
“There was a lot of earnest discussion among those present and they decided unanimously to go ahead with an appeal,” Mr Tyrie said.
“I think it could be described as a brave move.
“Nothing has changed in the community that lessens our passion.
“In fact the resolve is stronger.
“The advice we have is very strong and we believe the appeal is based on solid grounds.”
SRCI’s argument will not be made public until it is lodged with the Appeal Court on Friday.
This post is part of the thread: Stanley water – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.