State planners have sent a message that a district quarry’s non-compliance with current conditions would be considered in expansion plans.
Director of Resource Assessments Howard Reed made the comment at a consultation session regarding the Ardmore Park quarry in Bungonia on Monday night.
Operator, Multiquip Quarries, is proposing to increase output at its Oallen Ford Road facility from 400,000 to 580,000 tonnes of sand and basalt annually. The modification before the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, also seeks longer truck and quarry operating hours to 5am to 10pm Monday to Friday and 5am to 5pm on Saturdays; extension of the extraction area by 3.5 hectares and the quarry’s life by eight years; approval for a bitumen coating plant; and increase in maximum daily truck movements from 88 to 124 per day. However, it is not an overall increase in truck numbers over the year.
In a separate application to Goulburn Mulwaree Council, the company, Multiquip Aggregates, is proposing to build a concrete batching plant at 25 Braidwood Road, near the current Divall’s sand and soil yard.
Some 60 people gathered at Bungonia hall for the sometimes heated Planning meeting.
Mr Reed assured the community his department took compliance with existing approval conditions seriously and had markedly increased resources to police State Significant projects.
“In assessment terms I can’t think of anything more important to overcome than a rubbery compliance history,” he said.
“The next most difficult issue is where a company is not doing what it says it will do. It’s a matter of getting on with neighbours. We’ve signed a contract with the applicant that says you can get on with your development but in these terms. When it’s not done, it gives us pause.”
The Department’s compliance officer, Dr Paul Rutherford, detailed several breaches by Multiquip, including exceeding daily truck movements in 2016, which incurred a $15,000 fine. In a 2015 audit, the Department identified 21 consent breaches, some of which Multiquip challenged. Two weeks ago it issued an official caution over failure to report an environmental incident, which Dr Rutherford said did not cause harm.
Previously, compliance officers issued orders for the company to complete works that had not been don under the 2009 approval. These were now completed, Dr Rutherford said.
“I’m also dealing with them in regard to another matter I won’t go into,” he told the meeting.
Dr Rutherford said there were now 30 compliance officers in his branch to police State significant projects, up from three in 2004. He had come to know Bungonia well, particularly in recent months, which he’d been visiting regularly in regard to the quarry’s operation.
He is not directly involved in the modification’s assessment but compliance history is considered by planners.
Meantime, the Department received 46 community submissions and 10 from agencies in response to the public exhibition, which ended on February 26.
Mr Reed said the proposed increase in operating hours and average daily truck movements were “the standouts.” Other issues included the increased truck capacity to 50 tonnes (up from 30t), animal fatalities, groundwater and amenity impacts, road condition and safety and noise.
Agencies, such as Goulburn Mulwaree Council, have also raised issues which the company must address before the application progresses. The Department will then finalise its assessment and make a recommendation to the Independent Planning Commission. The Commission will hold a public hearing before making a decision. This body now had its own consent authority and stood separate to Ministerial order, Mr Reed said.
Some residents were skeptical of the Department’s compliance crackdown.
Jerrara Road resident Ian Beveridge said the State approved the developments and then “stepped back and let the council and community deal with the consequences.” Mr Beveridge and wife, Ros live along the approved haul route, over to the Hume Highway.
“If this modification is approved it becomes untenable to live where we do,” he said.
“If it goes ahead we’d be forced to put up the for sale sign and sell at a greatly reduced price because of the devaluation, and go somewhere else. That is totally unreasonable. The developer is doing this to line their pockets with total indifference to the community... Words don’t describe the frustration I and the community feel.”
Mr Beveridge and several others argued the proposal should not be a modification but a new application and questioned how it could be assessed when existing conditions had not been tested. Multiquip is upgrading the haul route as part of a staged approval. But it does not yet have consent to move the maximum allowable 88 trucks daily along the route.
Another resident said the fact the quarry was not fully up and running after eight years was revealing.
“That, to me, after 40 years in the oil and gas industry, says everything. It is not reflective of a major project,” he told the forum.
Jerrara Road property owner Skye Ward said she objected to the extra trucks, their size and increased operating hours.
“I’m worried about road safety, so much so that we haven’t sent our kids to school in Marulan because of the increase on trucks on Jerrara Road,” she said.
Others have called for more safety measures on the haul route, including a turning lane into Tickner Valley Road. Resident Mike Freestone claimed his wife was frequently tailgated by Multiquip trucks as she was returning home at night. She drove at 70km/h to avoid hitting wildlife.
“The choice is does she cop a kangaroo into the car or a truck up the back?” he said.
Mr Freestone feared Multiquip would at some stage apply to increase the 80km/h speed limit on Jerrara Road. It was reduced from 100km/h several years ago in response to community safety concerns.
Bill Glenn, who bought a Jerrara Road property in 1987, said he moved to enjoy a “sensible, quiet life.”
“But if there are 124 trucks running over 12 hours a day, we won’t get it,” he said.
“Have you thought about what it would be like to to drive the school bus along there? There is nowhere to pass. Nothing is being supplied for the ordinary motorist and we’re the ones who live here. They’re talking about highway movements on country roads.”
Multiquip managing director Steve Mikosic declined detailed response to the issues raised but described it as a good meeting.
“It’s always good to hear what people say,” he said.
“It’s not just our trucks travelling the road, so why are we singled out?”
Mr Reed told The Post that soaring demand for quarry material to feed Sydney’s construction boom would not influence the Department’s assessment and that every project rose or fell on its merits.