Danny Lannen, 18 January 2016

BP will pull out of its Lorne service station, leaving the town without a fuel outlet and the Great Ocean Road without any bowsers between Aireys Inlet and Apollo Bay.

Yesterday Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson demanded the decision be overturned, ­citing unacceptable treatment of the community during this critical bushfire danger ­period.

“I am outraged at BP’s ­actions, which show a callous disregard for Lorne residents as well as the thousands of tourists who use the Great Ocean Road,” Ms Henderson said.

“This is a disaster for the Lorne community and for tourism.”

BP said the closure, which is scheduled for mid-February, would be due to difficulties nego­tiating a tenancy agreement with the landlord of the Mountjoy Pde site.

Twelve staff will be affected.

Lorne locals have told of long-running ­concerns over water-­contaminated fuel from the station, resulting in breakdowns needing repairs of up to $12,000.

Ms Henderson estimated BP had paid at least $150,000 to repair engines damaged by contaminated fuel.

She believes a contractual dispute lingers between operator and sublessee BP and the site freehold owner over tanks and fuel lines thought to be the cause of the contamination.

A BP spokesperson was ­unable to comment on the contamination claims yesterday but said it was a “difficult decision” to close the station.

“We have not been able to come to an agreement with the landlord regarding the ­ongoing operation of the site and as such are unable to re-sign our tenancy to the site,” the spokesperson said.

“While it is disappointing to leave the area, we are proud to have been part of the Lorne community for over 10 years.

“We will work closely with our employees to identify ­potential alternative roles at other BP sites.”

The Geelong Advertiser was unable to contact the landlord on Sunday.

Environment Protection Authority south west manager Eve Graham yesterday said the authority last inspected the site mid-2014 following a ­report of a faulty line, which was remedied.

She said the EPA inspects service stations in response to reports of pollution but they are not subject to regular ­inspections because they are not licensed sites.

Ms Henderson said she had sought answers from BP on a range of issues and called on Victorian Environment Minister Lisa Neville to ask for a full EPA assessment of the site.

“I call on BP Australia’s chief executive Andy Holmes to overturn this terrible decision and guarantee reliable fuel supply to the people of Lorne for the foreseeable ­future,” she said.

“BP has a corporate and ­social responsibility not to ­desert the Lorne community at this critical time.”

Lorne-based Surf Coast Shire councillor Clive Goldsworthy said the closure of the ­station would be incredibly disappointing.

Extracted in full from the Geelong Advertiser.