EASTERN Golf Club's controversial $49 million relocation to the Yarra Ranges has been approved by Planning Minister Matthew Guy in an 11th-hour move.
The decision to approve the project was made at 4.30pm on Friday, February 8, ahead of a scheduled Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing the following Monday.
There is concern the planned use of pesticides on the course may affect Melbourne's drinking water supply due the the course's close proximity to Sugarloaf Reservoir.
The minister approved a planning scheme amendment to rezone the land, which would allow the club's current course in Doncaster to be taken over by developer Mirvac.
Mirvac bought the site for $100 million in mid-2011 and plans to transform the site into a community with 800 separate dwellings.
However, it would only be able to begin work if Eastern Golf Club's relocation to Yering was approved.
On Monday, February 11, the underbidder for the Doncaster site, Bill Boerkamp, was due to challenge the Yarra Ranges Shire Council's approval of the project in September last year.
But Mr Guy rezoned the land from Green Wedge to Special Use Zone 4 — a move that is usually required to be ratified by both houses of state parliament — which moved the case aside.
Shadow planning minister Brian Tee said the decision was a "slap in the face" for locals who had protested against the site.
"My concern is the way the minister came over the top and ripped the decision out of the hands of an independent umpire [VCAT]," he said.
The Yarra Ranges Council had first approved the golf course move in 2010 but it was knocked back by the VCAT after several community groups appealed against the decision, based on concerns about public safety in the event of a flood and the impact of buildings and works within a flood plain.
The new application addressed these issues by including raised emergency access points.
Eastern Golf Club manager Ben Telley did not comment further except to say the new green would be open in 2015.