Knox Environment Society says philanthropic charity The Ross Trust needs to find a new way to fund its grants program rather than building a new quarry on Arthurs Seat
A prominent Knox environment group has handed back a $40,000 grant from the philanthropic charity the RE Ross Trust in protest at the Trust’s controversial plans for a new quarry on Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula.
The Knox Environment Society (KES) received $40,000 from the Ross Trust last year for the construction of a new and improved seed storage shed at its indigenous nursery.
The KES has returned the full amount after hearing of the Trust’s plans, through its wholly owned subsidiary Hillview Quarries, to build a large new quarry between two sections of State Park on Arthurs Seat. The KES also donated $1000 to the Peninsula Preservation Group, which is leading the community campaign Save Arthurs Seat.
In a letter to the Ross Trust, KES President Richard Faragher said the Society’s over-riding mantra was “principle before profit”.
Mr Faragher said the proposed new quarry would cause “beautiful and sensitive habitats” to be destroyed.
“This is something we cannot be part of knowingly and willingly. You, as Trustees have examined the ethics of your decision and are happy with it and the Knox Environment Society is obliged to do the same and so it has been decided to return the $40,000 grant awarded to our organisation last year,” the letter says.
“… the KES implore you to again consider the negative impact of the proposed work on the local environment and instead find other sources of income to carry on your valuable philanthropic efforts. It would be great if the Ross Trust could, like all organisations, evolve and meet the changing needs of the community they are looking to help, especially in light of the groups they are looking to support.”
The KES decision comes as the Trust faces a major backlash from the environmental, business and philanthropic communities over its plans to fund its future grant activities through the construction of the new quarry.
More than 75 leading organisations and individuals have signed an open letter calling on the philanthropic charity the RE Ross Trust to withdraw its plans to open a new quarry on Arthurs Seat.
At the same time, some major environmental groups who have received funding from the Ross Trust have suspended their funding relationship with the Trust over concerns about the quarry proposal. These groups include the Australian Conservation Foundation, Environmental Justice Australia and the Places You Love Alliance.
Through the Trust’s ownership of Hillview Quarries, it operates an existing quarry in Dromana on the Arthurs Seat escarpment. In 2018, it applied to open a new quarry of up to 107 acres – the equivalent of 21 MCGs – on land that sits between two sections of the Arthurs Seat State Park. The final pit size may end up being smaller.
The application is currently going through an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) process, with a decision by Planning Minister Richard Wynne expected next year.
The open letter advertisement was co-ordinated by and paid for by the Peninsula Preservation Group (PPG), leading the community-based Save Arthurs Seat campaign. More than 40,000 people have signed a change.org petition opposing the new quarry.
Dr Mark Fancett, President of the PPG, said the open letter showed the breadth and depth of concern about the Ross Trust funding its ongoing philanthropic operations through the destruction of an important wildlife area.
“Given that the Trust’s mission is to enhance biodiversity, it is breathtaking hypocrisy for the Trust to seek to fund its activities by bulldozing remnant bush and destroying a critical wildlife corridor that is an irreplaceable koala, bird and small mammal habitat,” said Dr Fancett.
“The concern expressed in the open letter and the action taken by the KES in returning its grant shows that the Ross Trust is becoming isolated and is sadly out of touch with community expectations about modern day philanthropy.
“The Ross Trust can be a philanthropic charity focused on conservation or it can be the developer of a new open cut mine: it can’t be both. It’s the Trust’s responsibility to leave a leave a better legacy for the Victorian community.”