Dear Editor,

I recently went through the objection process in relation to the proposed Daylesford-based “Sky Barrel” development, but due to an “administrative oversight” by Hepburn Shire’s Governance team (their words, not mine), after being asked to attend the recent Council meeting on 17 May to address my objections, then waiting for nearly two hours listening to everyone else, I was not actually called upon to speak. (Apparently they had scheduled me to speak on another planning issue altogether, one I didn’t and still don’t know anything about. How that happened, I have no idea, since all the communication between us had to that point specifically referenced the Sky Barrel development.)

That’s really disappointing, and effectively a waste of 10 hours of my time, which (as with so many others) was and continues to be given pro bono on a volunteer basis (in this particular case in preparation of the written summary of the basis for objection, plus attendance at the Council meeting).

It’s even more disappointing, given that one of the Councillors specifically referred on the night to it being “National Volunteer Week”.

(If you want to know what I was planning on saying at the Council meeting, just skip to the two dot points at the bottom.)

To give some more context, the Cornish Hill reserve, the precinct directly abutting the proposed Sky Barrel development, already suffers from massive ongoing and invasive incursion of numerous weed plants (such as gorse and blackberry) and weed trees.

Rehabilitation of the reserve is a never-ending process undertaken by the government-appointed Committee of Management (COM) with the assistance of Friends of Cornish Hill (FOCH).

The input of individual members (and there aren’t a lot of them) is in both cases entirely voluntary, but there is a limit to what they can do. The “heavy lifting” of brushcutting, weed tree removal and poisoning has always needed and still needs additional professional (i.e. paid) involvement by contractors.

Whilst Hepburn Shire itself has contributed funding to the COM and FOCH over the years, and hopefully will continue to do so, without more substantial ongoing financial support, in my view the Cornish Hill rehabilitation and maintenance program is at risk.

With such support, on the other hand, continued invaluable work can be done to preserve and maintain the environmental achievements of the recent past.

Other published commentary on the Sky Barrel proposal, and indeed other commentary on the night of the Council meeting, has referred to the massive dual value inherent in the environmental and industrial heritage aspects of the Cornish Hill reserve.

In fact, I understand that a claimed benefit of the proposed development is that it will give guests direct access to the Cornish Hill reserve for walking, and environmental and historical experience and appreciation.

That’s no surprise. The development is, after all, to be located slap-bang in the middle of the western border of the reserve.

Given all this, my proposal was therefore twofold:

  • That if this project does proceed, the Planning Permit be made conditional on a contribution to the Committee of Management and/or the Friends of Cornish Hill funded by a levy per accommodation night that guests would be required to pay in addition to their regular tariff . I’d suggest a minimum of $10 per guest night
  • That this contribution, or one like it, be implemented in the wording of the Planning Permit in the form of an ‘in-perpetuity’ Section 173 agreement on the title, for which there is ample precedent.

In summary, I have no idea whether the Sky Barrel development will proceed or not.

But if it does, it needs to give and not just take.

(Caveat – The above comments are my personal view, and not necessarily aligned with the views of the COM nor of FOCH.)

Scott MacLean
Treasurer – Friends of Cornish Hill