You may be wondering why I am writing about the Daracon quarry at Martins Creek. Although this quarry was not on our radar as an issue when this community action group formed, we have since realised its current and ongoing expansion has huge implications for the whole area.
In mid-March I was asked by the Paterson Progress Association to give a short outline at a Paterson community meeting of how we are managing our discussions with the Hanson quarry at Brandy Hill. Neil and I represented our Brandy Hill / Seaham area at the meeting, which was organised to canvas residents’ opinions about the Martins Creek Quarry. About 150 residents turned up. It quickly became apparent that the community has great concerns with numerous issues.
Daracon pays no road levy to either Dungog Council, Port Stephens Council or Maitland Council, even though most of its product is transported on our roads as well as through Bolwarra and Lorn.
There has been no communication with the local communities, in particular with Paterson. Truck traffic has been monitored on normal work days at several sites and a resident recorded 100 truck movements past his front door between 5.45 am and 7 am (with video evidence to substantiate this).
Paterson has no detour options, and therefore all traffic has to travel down the main street. The safety concerns are well and truly warranted and road noise is excessive.
Paterson businesses are being severely affected, and considering that they are dependent on tourism as well, trucks rumbling through on Saturdays is most unwelcome.
Of particular concern to our own communities is that the trucks also affect Brandy Hill and Seaham residents. Once the trucks move on through Paterson they are travelling on Port Stephens Shire roads. Most of them head on down Brandy Hill Drive and High Street Wallalong, and some are now travelling through Seaham and around to Raymond Terrace. That is, they are using every possible route and not paying one cent to reduce their impact on our roads and the ambience of our local area.
The situation at Paterson, regarding the Martins Creek Quarry, is slightly different from our own situation regarding the Brandy Hill Quarry. We have been working with Hanson through the Department of Planning process and thus the community voice is being heard. It may be slow, but that is the nature of the whole process. In Paterson that process is not in place. The EPA granted Daracon an upgrade to the quarry operating licence from 450,000 tonnes to 2 million tonnes without community consultation. Residents believe that even this limit is being exceeded at the moment.
No one knows where Dungog Council stands on this. I sent several emails and made phone calls about this issue to Robyn Parker’s office, Dungog Council and Port Stephens Council late last year and earlier this year. This followed concerns expressed by Brandy Hill residents about the number of Daracon trucks and their haulage contractors barrelling down Brandy Hill Drive without concern for safety or noise issues. The only reply I had was from Port Stephens Council stating that there are no cross-boundary rules or discussions on this issue.
At the end of the Paterson meeting, the residents resolved to form a committee, seek discussions with George Souris (Member for Upper Hunter) and Robyn Parker (Minister for the Environment), and meet with Dungog Council and Daracon to sort out this issue which is not only distressing to all residents in Paterson but which also has such large implications for us all.
I have subsequently heard that a meeting with Daracon was held, but the outcome was not all that encouraging.
I believe it is in the interest of our residents that the Brandy Hill / Seaham Action Group works together with the Paterson Progress Association and VOWW on these matters that will affect us all.