Quarrying in Montrose

A history of community opposition

Kim Wormald, 1st June 2005

This piece was written by MEG member Kim Wormald in response to Boral's attempt in 2005 to expand the Montrose Quarry, which was successfully knocked back in 2007.

I have been reading local newspapers from the 1960s and amongst advertisements for home delivered milk, 95 pound garages and messages from the Decimal Currency Board I found many articles and letters that are still, sadly, relevant today.

In June 1965 the Lilydale Express quoted a description of the Montrose quarries as the “Cancer of the Dandenongs” emphasising the “bitter complaints from local residents ever since they were established”.

Many organisations united to fight quarry expansion proposals stating that “the Blue Dandenongs belong to us all”. Councillors were supportive and their "refusal to permit … quarrying activities in Fussell Road received unanimous and enthusiastic support".

The Age, June 1965, wrote, “It is obvious that if the proposal is accepted, a vast area could be completely ‘prostituted’ to the vested interest of big business”. Protests came in from all sides, including “very lively” public meetings and the lodgement of 1000 objections.

In May 1966, Minister Hamer opposed quarrying due to the imposition of negative impacts on “nearby residential areas, both existing and future” from dust, traffic and the “adverse effect on the natural beauty of the surrounding area”.

Despite unified opposition to quarrying the company appealed and in 1973 they were granted a licence to continue mining for 15 years - until 1988.

Both mining and residential development continued and in the 1990s, Boral mounted a campaign to quarry the buffer zone, a beautifully wooded ridge protecting residents and schools from the worst of the noise, dust and ugliness. There were newspaper, radio and television reports covering issues, packed public meetings and protest marches at the quarry gates.

In December 1999, our Shire Councillors unanimously voted to abandon the amendment and “the collective yell from the gallery was overwhelming, as was the sense of relief that seemed to permeate the council chambers”.

Residents believed that Boral understood the unequivocal message. However, in December 2001 Boral met with community representatives to disclose plans for yet another expansion proposal. Since then Boral-paid consultants have compiled reports for an Environmental Effects Statement.

It is clear there will be significant impacts on threatened native vegetation, Powerful Owl habitat, falling groundwater and Bungalook Creek. The quarry scar will be massive and visible from additional areas. Traffic, property devaluation and ‘end-use’ issues remain of concern. Blasting, noise, vibration and dust will persist for longer and be closer to residents and schools. There are serious health concerns regarding inhalable dust and the known carcinogen, crystalline silica.

Considering historical and contemporary opposition to quarrying in Montrose it was with sadness and cynicism that I read the quote in the Leader that “Boral have been actively listening and communicating with the community”. If this were accurate surely Boral would acknowledge the intensity of community despair, outrage and anger, and honour appeals to abandon their expansion proposal.

In June 1965 a resident wrote “Help us to protect our homes, our children, and our heritage of beauty from those whose sole interest is to despoil and destroy for profit”. Forty years later our plea is identical. We implore Councillors to refuse to exhibit Boral's shameful proposal. An Environmental Effects Statement is the ultimate process that Boral can utilise - if our community wins this battle we'll have the everlasting victory we deserve.