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Statement from the Ross Trust and Hillview Quarries

10 Dec 2021

The Ross Trust and Hillview Quarries have long valued our relationships with the communities we work in and the people we work with.

Since 2018, we have been diligently pursuing detailed studies and investigations as part of an Environment Effects Statement (EES) to explore the option of re-establishing quarrying at the former Pioneer Quarry site at Boundary Road in Dromana.

Today, we are announcing our intention to explore a rehabilitation option for the Boundary Road Quarry site as part of our ongoing EES and consistent with the prescriptive rehabilitation requirements mandated by the Victorian Government.

We are also announcing that we will no longer seek to re-establish a fully operational quarry for the site.

An EES is the established evidence-based Victorian Government process. The Ross Trust and Hillview Quarries remain committed to pursuing the EES with the specific purpose of finding the right and compliant rehabilitation plan to enable the best possible future use of this site. This is a legal requirement.

It means that as part of the EES process we can continue to work alongside the community, our stakeholders, and the state to explore a rehabilitation plan that will ensure the future uses of the site and the area for generations to come.

As we continue the important and detailed assessments and investigations as part of this work, it is important for everyone to understand what rehabilitation of a quarry site means.

Boundary Road is an existing quarry site. It has a 160-metre-deep quarry pit.

As the owners of this site, it is our responsibility, our moral obligation, and a legislative requirement, that we ensure the safety and stability of the site through a current and comprehensive rehabilitation plan that is considered and approved.

The Victorian Government’s Mineral Resources Strategy 2018–2023, State of Discovery, makes it clear industry should “explore innovative uses for land once mining has finished (and) construct safe, stable and sustainable landform.”

And so, it is important to understand that rehabilitation will change the footprint of the Boundary Road site forever. Its landscape, while picturesque, is not all untouched natural and native bushland. Rehabilitating it to be safe, stable, and to meet the full legislative requirements for use for generations to come will require substantial work.

Those who were opposed to our project also understand this. A paper prepared by Adjunct Professor Jeff Floyd and sent to the Trust opposing the quarry option, noted “the Trust would need to undertake a full rehabilitation of the old quarry site, including the removal of non-indigenous tree and plant species (including those that have migrated into the state park).”

We completely agree and know this to be true.

And to not use the EES process for rehabilitation after so much work and detailed, scientific, and evidence-based assessments of the site would be inappropriate.

The very cheerleaders who have urged us to walk away from this site conveniently ignore the fact that Ross Trust has always owned and operated a quarry in Dromana, and all of its profits have always gone to the Ross Trust to fund its philanthropic giving.

The Ross Trust was established in Victoria in 1970 by the will of Roy Ross to support charities and to protect vulnerable Victorians.

Roy Ross was a passionate quarryman and adventurer and his will established the Ross Trust to invest all his quarrying profits into community projects.

That has been our operating model for half a century. That should surprise no one. In fact, Australia has a long tradition of industrialists and miners taking up philanthropic causes and contributing widely to supporting vulnerable members of our community and projects to support positive social, cultural, and environmental outcomes.

Our commitment to having a positive impact on the community has never wavered.

Our main site, Hillview Quarries, at Hillview Drive Dromana, one kilometre from the site at Boundary Road, has operated for 53 years. In that time, we have helped deal with foreshore and beach erosion, we’ve built the schools, hospitals, shopping centres, pools, roads, tourism attractions, council buildings, award-winning gardens, iconic homes and properties, and much needed housing for the Peninsula’s growing communities.

We are immensely proud that our locally quarried, high-end granite has been used as part of the renovation of the Peninsula Hot Springs, the Martha Cove Marina, the Portsea Pub, Peninsula Link and other roads across Victoria, as well as the current Sorrento Ferry Terminal upgrade, and is sought after by leading garden designers and architects nationally and used in local homes and outdoor areas that have featured in high-end publications.

We employ a full-time horticulturalist on site who cultivates native vegetation and trees, which are planted as we close out and rehabilitate parts of the site. A family of peregrine falcons has called the working quarry at the top of Hillview Quarry Drive their home for 50 years.

We have an incredible team of 35 loyal, local employees, some of whom have been with the quarry for 47 of our 53 years. Their sons work for us. Generations of one family working to provide for and contribute to their local community.

We undertake regular health and safety checks for all of our staff and carefully monitor external environments consistent with industry and site-specific standards. These are independently assessed and meet EPA regulations.

But it is important to note the concept of rehabilitation is not new. We have been planning for rehabilitation of the Hillview Quarry Drive site for some years, knowing that there is only 5-8 years left of rock available at the site.

This is about delivering the right outcomes for the whole community.

We have now started discussions with the Victorian Government on how we can work with them to plan and prepare for the best future use options for the site, and we are also open to discussions with those who have a genuine and viable proposal and ideas to discuss.

We are not prepared to walk away from 53 years of providing urgent and much needed support to disadvantaged families, children, communities, and projects in the Mornington Peninsula and across Victoria.

The Ross Trust And Hillview Quarries have given over 5,000 grants to 2,000 organisations across Victoria totalling $142 million. More than $20 million has directly been granted to education, disadvantage and social justice projects on the Mornington Peninsula.

But we are increasingly concerned for the ongoing viability of hundreds of programs and organisations that we currently support – specifically vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.

Our work is being undermined by sometimes threatening, dangerous, vitriolic and misleading behaviour. We cannot allow our staff, grantees, and supporters to continue to be exposed to this. It’s not right and it needs to stop.

We will no longer stand silent and have the good name, reputations, legacy, and work of the Ross Trust tarnished through misinformation and attacks on us and our grantees, who have also become the target of such personal attacks.

We were incredibly alarmed and so saddened when our drivers reported dangerous braking in front of their trucks, received personal attacks and threats merely going about their job.

We have had to take steps to mitigate this by installing dash cams and providing our drivers with factual information and training to respond to the outrage and anger. It is completely appalling to think hard working, dedicated, local people have been targeted in this way.

A key part of our discussions with government now will be how our decision to no longer pursue the re-establishment of full-scale quarrying at this site will impact on the state’s broader requirements for resources and materials to build the roads, schools, and tourist attractions that it needs as we look to economic recovery and supporting Victoria’s growing communities.

Ross Trust and Hillview Quarries are excited for what the future holds, and we look forward to working with all our partners in delivering a bright future for the Mornington Peninsula.

Jeremy Kirkwood, Chair The Ross Trust and Geoff Nicholson, Chair Hillview Quarries