The future of the next stage of the Western Highway duplication hangs in limbo.
After a long stand off with VicRoads, Buangor landowner Mairi Anne Mackenzie and her legal counsel Michael Kennedy are preparing for a Supreme Court hearing seeking to halt works between Buangor and Ararat until a judicial review can be held into the project.
Separately, Mr Kennedy has also requested for Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio to approve an Interim Conservation Order on the project under section 26 of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
If the ICO is upheld then any works on the project, including the tender process, would be halted.
Works on the section are due to begin in 2017 and pre-construction started last month, but was brought to a halt on Tuesday when VicRoads agreed to Justice Tim Ginnane's court order not to undertake any more works until November 7. The case will return to the Supreme Court then.
Ms Mackenzie believes the current approved alignment, running through her property, will cause significant environmental damage that has not been adequately identified in VicRoads’ Environmental Effects Statement.
Numerous environmental reports have also cast doubts over the accuracy of the EES, which then-Planning Minister Matthew Guy used to approve to alignment in 2013.
The same EES led to the destruction of almost 700 extra massive old trees at an earlier duplication stage in Beaufort.
VicRoads project director Mick McCarthy confirmed the tender applications closed on Wednesday, but did not say if VicRoads would re-commence pre-construction from November 7 or if it would re-visit planning if required.
“Given the matter is before the courts, it would not be appropriate for us to comment further,” he said.
Mr Kennedy said the application for an ICO was “justified” given the supporting environmental reports, which outline impacts to endangered creatures such as the golden sun moth, striped legless lizard, powerful owl and (plant) clover glycine.
“The beauty of that (an ICO) is that it’s the Minister's decision, it doesn't involve any court decision,” he said.
A spokesperson for Ms D’Ambrosio said the matter is “currently under consideration”.
A large group of residents under the banner of ‘Keep the Original Route Supporters Incorporated’, have joined the court case as a plaintiff.
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