Victoria’s planning tribunal has approved a permit for Bendigo’s first mosque, despite stiff opposition to the project from some local residents.
City of Greater Bendigo councillors backed the plans in June last year, but the lead objector, Julie Hoskin, took the case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to argue the development would cause traffic and social issues.
In its ruling published this morning, VCAT dismissed those concerns.
“[The tribunal found] no evidence of any significant social or other effects to the community as a result of the development and use of the mosque,” it said.
The tribunal also said it found “no evidence of procedural fairness being denied to the group applicants”.
“Rather, the tribunal has afforded the group applicants every opportunity to prepare and present their case including lengthy adjournments of the proceeding in order to obtain expert evidence,” it said.
Resistance seems useless:
VCAT has put a series of conditions on the development, including caps on the number of people allowed on site at specific times, a height limit of 21.4 metres for the mosque’s minaret, and restrictions on the opening hours.
Last week, the objectors made an unsuccessful attempt to have the tribunal president removed from the case because they alleged he was biased.
Protesters ran a coordinated campaign against the plans using social media, trucks towing billboards and black balloons that were strung up across the city.
In response, the This is Bendigo movement was formed to give a voice to locals who support multiculturalism and tolerance.
The Bendigo Islamic Association regularly pleaded for a respectful debate, and thanked the broader community for its support.
The opponents can try to seek leave from the Victorian Court of Appeal if they wish to challenge the tribunal’s verdict.
The site is in east Bendigo, near the city’s airport.