AFTER months of negotiation, the City of Albany has still refused to make minor adjustments to planning approval for a lime pit near Denmark which would allow the company behind the project to supply the much-needed resource to farmers for this season.
Wet weather throughout 2021 hampered Great Southern Lime's ability to complete road works required by the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) in order to operate the lime pit on the Nullaki Peninsula, 50 kilometres west of Albany.
Those road works are expected to be completed within the next couple of weeks, however another condition imposed by SAT only allows lime to be taken from the pit between December 1 to March 31.
With that in mind, Great Southern Lime applied to the City of Albany to be allowed to extract lime from the pit during April, only for this year.
Great Southern Lime director and shareholder Scott Smith, who farms at Green Range, claimed the process City planners said they would need to follow made them "jump through hoops" and would be "pointless" by the time it was completed.
"We were told that after having lodged our application, the City would need to publicly advertise the proposed amendments for 21 days," Mr Smith said.
"After that it would have to go to Council for determination and given the application process needed to go through, it would not make the April meeting and more likely be referred to the Council Meeting at the end of May or even June.
"This process timing makes a moot point of the request for extension of haulage for the month of April."
The City has claimed it cannot make changes to granted approvals without going through those public exhibition steps.
However Mr Smith said he had received legal advice that planning and development regulations allowed the City to make minor amendments to approvals granted by SAT and had already set a precedent by making a change, without public consultation, to the conditional approval of the project.
When it was discovered the realignment of Lee Road would cause Native Title issues, the City reverted the alignment to the existing unconstructed road reserve, without going through any of the processes it had enforced on Great Southern Lime.
However, according to the City it did not require modification of any conditions of approval and had no impact on the community.
Mr Smith said based on all of that, it was clear the City had the ability to grant them approval to operate the lime pit during April without the red tape, but they "simply refuse to do so".
"I think it is the easy option for the City, they will not upset the noisy minority who have tried to hinder the project from the start," he said.
Mr Smith said the window of time they could access the pit was rapidly closing and bureaucracy would make it null and void.
He also suggested it would save the City a perceived public controversy.
"Despite the work we have done to advocate the need for lime in our region it appears that very few people working for the City and on the council understand or care about agriculture and the important contribution it makes to the Albany economy," he said.
However, the City stood its ground and said the required infrastructure to access and develop the resource had had a significant impact on the local community.
"Any request to alter the explicit conditions of approval set by the SAT would need to go through a public consultation process before being presented to Council for determination," said executive director infrastructure, development and environment Paul Camins.
"Although the developer's request may seem minor, the changes to the conditions of the planning approval are substantially different and affect specific key points that were raised in SAT and in addition may have a considerable impact on the community.
"Given the matters that may be raised by the community it is unlikely that the decision making level will be at a delegated officer level and the City of Albany Council will have to make the decision."
From Mr Smith's point of view, he can't understand how the request is "substantially different" when they have approval to take out 50,000t over a four-month window, which unfortunately wasn't possible, so they were instead asking to take out 6250t over one month.
"We will be selling a natural product by using legal trucks on a legal road which will be completed and all other conditions satisfied," he said.
"The local community is zoned rural and all rural areas expect to have trucks on the road year round, yet we are only asking for one month at half capacity.
"The City says they understand the need for lime and the advantages of this pit for local growers, but then won't support its operation."
A group of farmers who hoped to use the Nullaki lime pit haven't given up and last month attempted to impress upon them the importance of the resource at a council meeting.
Green Range farmer John Howard said he was currently forced to haul lime from Boranup, which is 400 kilometres one way along a terrible road and costs $57 per tonne to get it to the farm.
Nullaki is about 100km away and would cost roughly $35/t, representing a saving of at least $20/t.
"We bought 1300t of lime over the past few weeks, if you work that out at an extra $20/t, it's $26,000 extra the City has cost us by not helping to get the Nullaki pit up and running," Mr Howard said.
"It just doesn't make sense - if they can take trucks in there to construct the access road, why can't we bring trucks out with lime on them?
"I would have liked to see our council let it operate for the month requested, but they clearly have another agenda on the go."
Woogenellup farmer Mark Adams stood up at the council meeting to explain it's not just the location of Great Southern Lime that was beneficial, but also the quality of the product which was so vital for his farming operation.
"We really need council support in getting this source up and running and making it available to farmers and landholders in the great Albany region," Mr Adams said.
"It's a frustrating situation when all the approvals for the project have been given and all you need in one minor alteration to have something happen this year.
"The City didn't support the development from the start, which is why it had to go to SAT in the first place, so it would appear that they have got their nose out of joint and are now making it as difficult as they can to get it up and running."
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