Hub divides community

Merrifield City is less than two kilometres from the proposed hub site.

Michaela Meade

A state government proposal for a 500-bed COVID-19 quarantine hub in Mickleham has divided the community.

Last week, Acting Premier James Merlino revealed that a site on Donnybrook Road was the state government’s preferred location for the hub, which will house returned travellers.

The site is next to the existing federal government-owned Mickleham Post Entry Quarantine Facility.

The state government has committed $15 million to design the hub, however its construction is dependent on federal government approval and funding.

The state government said the hub would cost about $200 million to build, with construction to begin in September if federal approval is granted.

Mickleham residents launched an online petition over the weekend, gaining close to 600 signatures in two days.

Many residents told Star Weekly they had concerns about a quarantine hub being built in a growing community.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently revealed that Mickleham experienced the highest population growth in the country in 2019-20.

Melissa was concerned about the risk of the virus leaking out of the hub.

“What is the guarantee that COVID won’t get into our community… The [state] government still hasn’t gotten [it] right,” she said.

“Who will want to live here now… we will only be known as the ‘COVID quarantine centre’ which means our house prices will plummet.

“Most importantly, where was the community consultation?”

Joa raised concerns about the proposed hub’s proximity to Merrifield City shopping centre, which is less than two kilometres from the site.

“It will take only one person working at the facility to rush out to get some lunch at Coles and not wash their hands well or catch 525 bus to Craigieburn.”

Tanya said: “We have just purchased a house in Mickleham and when I heard this… I instantly regretted our decision.

“Merrifield is proposed to be the next big city centre in the north, and now they’re going to risk the health and well-being of its residents when there is plenty of land elsewhere with no residents.”

Yanna said she wanted families to feel safe in the area.

“I am worried as it will drive families away simply [out] of fear that one person can spread it and we get locked down again.

“They should do it away from residential areas in the bushes far, far away.”

Mel said: “Mickleham is an up and coming area and has started to bring families in.

“I feel that this facility will only drive people away.

“They should really consider a different area further away from families.”

Aimee said: “Having been in one of the longest lockdowns last year I’m sure our apprehension can be seen as valid.”

“I have multiple concerns from potential spread of the virus, to our already hardly known suburb being known as “quarantine land”.

“I would really like to see the government prove they can manage the hotel quarantine for a little longer, given the bungles we have had, before I feel safe about being so close to where the virus could be centred.

“As an immunocompromised person, the thought does not fill me with joy.”

Other residents said they supported the proposal and that they believed there was no risk to the community, as the site was already home to an animal quarantine facility.

Adam said Mickleham’s proximity to Melbourne Airport made it an ideal location.

Cameron said he was “all for it”.

Hume council has called for more information about the proposal, revealing it was not consulted prior to last week’s announcement.

Mayor Joseph Haweil said council has requested an “urgent“ meeting with the state government.

“Council has not been consulted… and seeks clarification about the ongoing management of the facility to ensure the health and safety of local residents,“ he said.

Other sites considered for the hub included Melbourne Airport, Cooper Street in Epping, Mickleham Road in Attwood, and Avalon Airport.

Yuroke MP Ros Spence was contacted for comment.