Residents hit back over Gunlake Quarry job loss claim

NO GO: Brayton Road near Marulan is not equipped to handle hundreds of trucks, residents argue. They want a rail solution for quarries.

NO GO: Brayton Road near Marulan is not equipped to handle hundreds of trucks, residents argue. They want a rail solution for quarries.

Residents have again called on a district quarry to put the community first and implement rail as part of any expansion.

They were speaking after Gunlake Quarry managing director Ed O’Neil told The Post he was considering an appeal against the Planning Assessment Commission’s April refusal of the plan.

The company is also contemplating a modified application.

But Mr O’Neil has again ruled out rail to transport the proposed near tripling of hard rock product to two million tonnes at the Brayton Road operation. On Friday he said he would have to offload 15 of 35 employees if he didn’t receive direction soon on his bid.

The statement has “puzzled” some Brayton and district residents.

In a joint statement, Michele Costello, Dr Michael Sernik of Towrang and Towrang Valley Progress Group president Geoff Pearson said the Department of Planning had twice told Gunlake to “fully assess rail.” So too had the PAC. 

“On each occasion he has been found not to have complied with that request,” they said.

“As a result his application for expansion of the Gunlake Quarry has been refused. It would seem that any uncertainty concerning his expansion plans is a matter of his own making.

“Mr O’Neil says he ‘has ramped up production to meet demand’ and employed 15 more people last year in an ‘educated’ expectation of a favourable response. This is surprising because Gunlake’s EIS says the expansion would only result in seven more jobs at the quarry.”  

The trio questioned whether the company had increased production beyond its licence limit of 750,000 tonnes.

“It is tragic if 15 people lose their jobs, but if Ed has employed them without first obtaining expansion approval and knowing he has work for them, isn’t that his fault?

“...The local community are not against business, quarrying or growing local industry. Just ask Holcim. We threw a party for them and supported their recent expansion application. We simply ask Gunlake to do the right thing and adopt the same mitigation measures employed by Holcim and Boral to protect the local community and the local environment.”

Big Hill resident Ken Wray feared the impact from the proposed maximum 590 trucks a day plus those from Twynam Agricultural Company’s planned composting facility nearby at the nearby Johnniefelds property. The “worst case scenario” was 740 trucks per day if Twynam also eventually went ahead with plans to backfill a an onsite quarry with building materials, he claimed.

“All of this on country roads primarily designed for use by local residents and at the very worst school buses, not heavy transport vehicles,” he said.

However Twynam CEO Johnny Kahlbetzer said the quarry was still leased to Holcim under a 20-year arrangement. His company had no control over the pit and had no immediate plans to utilise it for building material disposal, he told The Post.

Mr Wray argued Gunlake’s statement that it intended to stick to the proposed route “did not bode well for future relations.” He called for a more conciliatory approach.

“The changes that Gunlake propose for the haulage route are cosmetic at best,” Mr Wray said.

“The major problem is in the middle of Ambrose Rd at a t-intersection at the top of a crest where there is minimal visibility. This intersection has had numerous incidents already.  It’s lethality is magnified in foggy weather. There is no proposal to minimise the danger at this intersection.

“It is not the intention of the community to prevent any of these projects proceeding, but they cannot be allowed to proceed and to significantly increase the danger to road users and to destroy the residents’ quality of life.  

“The PAC has a much broader view of the issues than the Department of Planning and Environment or the RMS, and were able to view the development from the community perspective.”

Meantime, Goulburn MP Pru Goward earlier said she welcomed “the independent and thoughtful consideration the PAC had given to the Gunlake Quarry project.” 

“I agree with the PAC’s assessment of looking for a coordinated approach to the provision of rail services across the region, and would be very happy to lobby the State Government to ensure this happens,” she said in a statement.

“If we are to get the full benefits of quarrying and ensure our country roads remain safety, then we must look at developing an integrated rail strategy. I look forward to working with the quarry industry on developing this strategy.”

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