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Bio Facility Fast Tracked in Geelong

Geelong Council in Victoria has voted to fast-track Australia’s first waste-to-energy food farm in Lara, with assurances of a full environmental study. Source: The Geelong Advertiser

Councillors voted to hand over responsibility for the sustainable farm project to Planning Minister Matthew Guy.

Cr Michelle Heagney told the council she supported the $320 million sustainable farm project but wanted to be sure a comprehensive environmental impact study was performed before it proceeded.

The proposed 371-acre farm site on Old Melbourne Rd near Avalon was in an existing farming area and it was important to rule out the possibility of fumes being generated from the burning of recycled timber, Cr Heagney said.

The farm plans to burn reclaimed timber from industrial sites to create energy, the council heard.

A council officer told the chamber it was obligatory an environmental impact study be carried out, whether the project was fast-tracked or not.

Cr Heagney said the sustainable farm could be “a dynamo” for the region and she wanted to see it move forward.

Mayor Darryn Lyons, who was not at the council meeting, said in a statement the “visionary” project could create 1000 jobs and was expected to contribute $160 million a year to the regional economy.

“I fully support handing this major project over to Minister Guy for fast-tracking,” Cr Lyons said.

He said it was vital the council did everything possible to get the proposal to first stage.

Stage one will see 10 hectares of glasshouses, an energy centre and recycling plant built on the site.

“The Sustainable Farms consortium recognises the huge potential of Geelong’s location with road, rail, air and sea transport right on our doorstep providing easy access to interstate and lucrative export markets,” Cr Lyons said.

“Sustainable Farms is in line with Geelong’s future as a smart 21st century city with its use of hi-tech, sustainable agriculture using renewable energy.”

Sustainable Farms Australia Limited welcomed the council’s decision for its hydroponic vegetable farm.

Spokesman Barry Dungey said a streamlined approvals process could see a planning outcome by next April. He said his organisation would continue to inform the local community.

Sustainable Farms Australia announced plans in late-July for a project developed by HRL Developments, Mercer & Stokes and Fresh Select.

When in full production, it is expected Sustainable Farms will process 220,000 tonnes of timber per year through its recycling capacity reducing waste to landfill.

From this, the project will have an annual 120MWh energy production facility using renewable energy with a near zero carbon footprint.

Potash produced as a byproduct will be used to enrich the soils of local market gardeners.