SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council has backed a proposal to build a truck stop service station with a convenience store and three food outlets including a takeaway drive-through at Korumburra by issuing a Notice of Decision to grant a planning permit.
Five of the Shire’s nine councillors supported the motion to issue the notice, three councillors voted against, and one declared a conflict of interest and did not vote on the matter at the open meeting held in Leongatha on Wednesday March 15, 2023.
The applicant, Claremont Project Management, wants to develop a vacant 1.3-hectare block of Mixed Use-zoned land on the Leongatha Road section of the South Gippsland Highway, south-east of the Korumburra town centre.
The development would also include truck and car parking, showers and a lounge area for truck drivers, electric vehicle charging stations, bicycle racks, and indigenous vegetation garden beds and screening.
The planned site is located between the existing AG Warehouse Korumburra and Burra Garden Supplies and Nursery west of the South Gippsland Highway, and directly opposite people’s homes on the eastern side of the Highway.
There are also residential properties to the west of the proposed site.
The application sought planning permission for a 24-hour/7-day service station, though one of the Notice of Decision’s 35 conditions would limit its trading hours to between 6 am and 11 pm from Monday to Friday, and 7 am to 10 pm on Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays.
Strzelecki Ward Cr Jenni Keerie moved to issue the Notice of Decision at last Wednesday’s meeting, commenting that “this has not been an easy decision for me to make, being a member of the Korumburra community.”
Cr Keerie noted that the Shire had received 13 objections to the proposal, including removal of existing vegetation, increased traffic, inappropriate location, access, light spill, smells, noise, litter, and loss of residential amenity.
“I believe that most of the concerns have been addressed in the conditions,” she said.
“Korumburra has been identified as a regional centre, and the site is located in a Mixed Use Zone on a major traffic route through South Gippsland.
“The proposal offers benefits to the town, including employment opportunities and truck drivers’ amenities and, based on the merits of the proposal, and the conditions imposed, I support the motion.”
Seconder, Tarwin Valley Ward Cr Claire Williams said, “Mixed Use zoning is always going to be difficult”, observing that the 13 objections were largely “based on amenity”.
“We’re looking at much-needed facilities for the freight network,” she said.
Strzelecki Ward Cr Mick Felton said, “I agree that a place for trucks to stop is needed, but this service station is in the wrong place; it should be where the saleyards were.
“This is a fantastic proposal, but it’s in the wrong spot,” he said, before voting against the motion.
Tarwin Valley Ward Cr Adrian Darakai said “the 131/2 pages of conditions more than address the objections”, and that “amenity is going to change, but it won’t be the ghastly eyesore people think it’s going to be.
“There’s even a mural on the front of the building,” he said.
“It will not be a 24-hour service station, there are similar industries and businesses along that stretch of the South Gippsland Highway, and there will be no increase to the amount of traffic that already uses the Highway anyway.”
Coastal Promontory Ward Cr Mohya Davies also voted not to issue the Notice of Decision and foreshadowed an alternative motion should the motion under discussion be defeated.
“I have struggled with this, and I’m not sure if I’m for or against,” she said.
“My main concern is that while it’s a great proposal, with the look and feel of Korumburra, it’s not the right thing for the town, and trees would have to be removed.
“I acknowledge the efforts of our planners to reduce the effects of this proposal on the neighbours,” Cr Davies said.
Coastal Promontory Ward Cr Scott Rae voted for the motion, saying that “transport has nothing like this in the Shire” and that “truck drivers have to stop on the roadside in Leongatha and run over to the McDonalds.
“This Shire’s economy is based on livestock and agriculture, and it’s almost a case of basic human decency [to provide such a facility],” he said.
Coastal Promontory Ward Cr Sarah Gilligan said she, too, felt “conflicted” and that the service station if built on the proposed site would “affect local character.
“If only it was on the other side of town, it would be an easier decision,” she said, ahead of voting to approve issuing the Notice of Decision.
“The site is on multiple use zoned land, and the proposal is likely to get though any Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) process, so it’s important to make sure all of the conditions are adhered to,” Cr Gilligan said.
Mayor and Strzelecki Ward Cr Nathan Hersey also voted against the motion, commenting that the proposal was “to my mind, not in keeping” with Korumburra, because “food options and convenience form the majority of the proposal.
“I agree we do need a truck stop but is this a Trojan horse?” he said, remarking that “this could still go to VCAT, even with those conditions” and that there was a risk that VCAT would overturn some of the Shire planners’ conditions.
Exercising her right of reply, Cr Keerie said “anybody who objects to the proposal has the opportunity to go to VCAT.
“This proposal does tick all of the boxes in terms of planning and meets the criteria we are asked to make the decision on,” she said.
“What we can do as a council is to protect the amenity and the neighbours, and if it goes to VCAT, [the Notice of Decision’s] conditions may not apply, and the neighbours may not get protection.”
Tarwin Valley Ward Cr John Schelling, who works for a fuel distribution company serving Gippsland, declared a conflict of interest and did not vote.