Road works to duplicate a stretch of the Western Highway between Ballarat and Stawell have been indefinitely suspended because VicRoads did not renew a planning permit for the project.
The permit issue, labelled an “administrative issue” by VicRoads, has thrown the future of the project into jeopardy with all works ceased until further notice.
The $675 million project has been plagued by issues. VicRoads admitted in 2015 a surveying error led to the destruction of 900 large old trees instead of the approved 221.
The project is currently the subject of a supreme court battle between VicRoads, the minister and Buangor landowner MairiAnne Mackenzie.
VicRoads would not comment on the issue only said it was “working to find a solution and will keep the public informed as we progress”.
Michael Kennedy, who is acting for Ms Mackenzie, said VicRoads had made an "astonishing" mistake that he hoped would trigger a change of direction by the Victorian government.
Ms Mackenzie, who has proposed as “northern option” of the project, said the lapsed permits provide an opportunity for VicRoads to make a different decision.
“We want the highway to go ahead on the northern option because it’s cheaper to build and is far less destructive,” she said on behalf of Freeway Fiasco Response Group.
“This is a great opportunity for VicRoads to adopt is now while permits are fluid, and miss the birthing tree too.”
This comes days after three women applied to have a claimed birthing tree due to be cut down protected under Aboriginal heritage laws.
A spokesman for roads minister Luke Donnellan said the minister is aware of a request to protect a tree within the highway alignment. He said there was a rigorous process to identify issues of cultural significance.
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