Good neighbours?


CASEY Council on Tuesday passed a controversial planning application which means a mosque will be built next door to an outspoken Christian church.
Police, security guards, a media swarm and a man in a chicken suit criticising the council were among those at the council chambers on Tuesday, when councillors approved a permit for a mosque in Doveton.
Cr Sam Aziz was not at the meeting, where councillors voted nine to one to approve a permit made by Achivision for the use and development of a mosque at 27, 29 and 31 on a three-acre site in Green Street, Doveton despite strong opposition.
Pastor Daniel Nalliah and Catch the Fire ministries – currently building at ona one-acre site at 25 Green Street – voiced strong opposition to the mosque.
The council received four objecting petitions which included over 2000 signatures.
The move to approve the mosque was made by Cr Wayne Smith, following recommendations by council officers.
He said many of the objectors were non-residents and about 1900 signatories on one petition did not leave their address, raising a question over its validity. He said it was interesting to note another planning application for an Ebenezer Christian Assembly Church near Green Street, on Claredale Road, received far fewer objections than the mosque application.
Cr Smith said he supported the council officers’ recommendations, and would have also supported them if they had recommended the council refuse the permit.
He said the councillors needed to make a decision based solely on planning grounds and not religious or personal views, and added the application fitted the council’s planning requirements.
He said council would receive criticism from members of the community regardless of their decision.
“Council can’t win on this. There are probably as many people against it as there are for it. The people who are against it are just more vocal,” Cr Smith said.
“This application had to be made on planning grounds and will (probably) be challenged at VCAT or court, and that’s the rights of the objectors.”
The move met resistance from Cr Rosalie Crestani, who was the only councillor to vote against the permit.
Cr Crestani asked several questions about how the council officers would ensure the hours of operation, maximum patrons and parking requirements in the report would be adhered too. Officers replied the applicants were obliged to follow council’s requirements and could face fines or be taken to VCAT if they didn’t.
Cr Crestani said there were a lot of unanswered questions in the council report, including who would be in control of the mosque and if they would have any affiliation with offshore entities.
Cr Crestani said some of the objectors did not put their addresses on the petition because people had received death threats.
She said council should listen to opposed residents and said she wanted to “save council the headache” because if the permit was granted, objectors would most likely take the matter further, referring to VCAT.
City of Casey Mayor Amanda Stapledon said no matter what decision was made, the issue could be taken to VCAT.
Sherene Hassan, a member of the mosque, said she hoped members of the mosque and of Catch the Fire could exist peacefully on Green Street.
Pastor Nalliah said the decision made by the council was “politically correct” and said it was a “sad day for Australia.”