December 2016 Update

Firstly, there is still no news on the Brandy Hill Quarry expansion but we can be sure that Hanson will be watching the progress of the Martins Creek Quarry EIS with keen interest. We certainly are watching the Martins Creek Quarry because it has many of the same issues that we expect will arise in the Brandy Hill Quarry expansion, and the Department of Planning & Environment’s (DPE) handling of that is a precursor to how it will handle the Brandy Hill Quarry expansion.  Let me remind you that Daracon trucks and their other haulage contractors are the major users of Butterwick Road & Clarencetown Road through West Ward of PSC. Residents along Butterwick Road, Clarencetown Road, Brandy Hill Drive and Seaham Road are already suffering with the noise of early morning empty trucks heading towards Martins Creek as early as 4.30am. Of course there is the cumulative impact with Hanson’s trucks. The roads are set to deteriorate faster with Martins Creek Quarry paying no levies to any council. Hanson does pay a road levy per tonne moved.

Hanson have asked all the attendees at the CCC meetings for their permission for the minutes of the meetings to be included in their EIS. A new chairperson has been appointed for future CCC meetings. More information will be posted at a later date. The next CCC meeting is being planned for February 2017.

In this post:

A. Update on submissions on the Martins Creek Quarry EIS
B. Land & Environment Court (LEC) hearing on Daracon’s application for a deferment of Dungog Shire Council’s (DSC) court action.
C. Situation appraisal
D. Next Steps

A. Update on submissions on the Martins Creek Quarry EIS

Submissions closed on 24th November and have now been posted on the DPE website. Click here to view them.

Some organisations including Martins Creek Quarry Action Group (MCQAG) asked for more time to complete their submissions, and those will be lodged this week.

In total, 846 public, 12 agency and 100 business and organisation submissions (including BHSA) were lodged. Those are amazingly large numbers. There were 25 from our postcode, so our thanks to all the people who took the time to put their concerns in writing. This is definitely a situation where the DPE is taking notice of our submissions.

The majority of submissions oppose the expansion in some way. While there were many submissions supporting the expansion, they were mostly Daracon employees, suppliers and subcontractors, using form letters from Daracon. An analysis of the public submissions showed that the vast majority of the support came from Newcastle and Maitland, and the objections came from Paterson, Vacy and the haul routes, as can be expected. The supporters are those who make money from the quarry versus the objectors whose lives are being by adversely affected by its current and proposed operations.

The submissions that we found most interesting, and we encourage you to read them for yourselves to form your own conclusions, are:-

  1. The DSC submission which outlines why the court action has been taken. The main points are the annual tonnes being extracted far exceed the 300,000, that 70% is not going by rail, and that various land use rights are being breached. Please refer to that document for the details.
    It also states that “Dungog Shire Council acknowledges that Martins Creek Quarry does present a valuable natural resource and does not object to its operation in some form as long as the scale of those operations have had an appropriate environmental assessment and the operations do not significantly impact on the rural/residential amenity of residents residing in close proximity to the Quarry itself or along the transport Haulage routes. The Martins Creek and Paterson communities have over the past 10 years had their amenity and in some cases health negatively effected by excessive truck movements and the resultant impacts”  MCQAG and BHSA agree with that position.
  2. The 9 page letter from DPE to Daracon (Buttai Gravel) is in the folder ” DPE request for Response to Submissions”. It specifies in some detail all of the things that the DPE requires to be addressed in Daracon’s Response to Submissions (RTS). The lack of meaningful consultation and any resulting compromises to reduce resident’s concerns, and a large number of traffic and noise issues were included.
    In light of the court action which is challenging Daracon’s use of the current 900,000 tonne annual extraction rate as the baseline to ask for a further increase to 1.5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa), the DPE now requires Daracon to submit two extra versions of the EIS. One for an increase of 1.2 mtpa from 300,000 tonne, and another for  a 900,000 tonne increase from 600,0000 tonne. The 300,000 tonne rate is what  DSC claims in their court action, to be the Quarry’s current licensed rate.
  3. The RMS submission expressed concerns that it was not consulted about Gostwick bridge, while the EIS states that it was. The RMS is very concerned about the damage that the high volume of trucks is doing and will do to that historic one lane bridge, and also states that for the proposed traffic volumes, it should be replaced with a two lane bridge.The RMS also expressed concerns about the practicality of the proposed intersection upgrades and also that they do not comply with road standards. Land acquisitions and the impact on parking spaces in Paterson’s Main Street and access to businesses, all require further detailed analysis.
  4. The MCQAG submission will be worth reading as it is a very thorough compilation of all the adverse impacts on the amenity of residents and visitors to the area, and includes a number of professionally prepared technical rebuttals of the EIS.
  5. The PSC submission did echo and expand on the concerns that BHSA presented on 15th November. It included:
    • Restricting any noise from trucks to between 7am and 7pm.
    • The need for significant levies to fund road upgrades and maintenance,  and
    • A levy to also fund safety and amenity improvements in the form of footpaths, bus stops and intersection upgrades.
  6. The Maitland City Council (MCC) submission is very disappointing. Draw your own conclusions on what might be going on behind the scenes there!

B. Land and Environment Court (LEC) Action

DSC has taken Daracon (Buttai Gravel) to court over what it claims are 19 points where Daracon’s operations have been or are currently in breech of the conditions of the consent or licence to operate the quarry, as applied to State Rail before Daracon took over. see the DSC submission.

The case is listed to be heard in the LEC in Macquarie Street Sydney for 3 weeks from 13th February 2017. Daracon recently applied to have the case deferred to September 2017, so an all day hearing was held in the LEC on Friday 9th December for the judge to decide on whether to grant the delay or not.  A number of MCQAG, VOWW and BHSA representatives attended the hearing. Though the judge did not announce his decision on the day, he promised one before Christmas. We are very hopeful that the delay will be rejected, so that the case proceeds in February.

A summary of the hearing follows. It explains much about Daracon’s behaviour. The court case is likely to be a key factor in how the DPE handles the EIS, and more importantly, whether the current operations, which have destroyed amenity for residents, will be curtailed back to the levels that applied under State Rail, or perhaps be stopped completely, until a new consent is approved by the DPE.

Daracon did not argue their reasons for asking for the delay, rather just stated that they believe that they have an unrestricted licence for the quarry and therefore are not breaching any conditions. Daracon claim that there are no restrictions on how much they extract, on how it is transported, the times of day they do it, and that there are no levies they should be paying for the upkeep of roads or anything else!

DSC argued the merits of their case and that it needs to be resolved ASAP in the interest of residents, and because in most probability, a court decision is required so that the DPE can rule on the EIS. The other point they made is that Daracon believe and are acting as if they have an unrestricted license, and have stated that if a new consent has conditions or restrictions that are unfavourable to Daracon then they would chose to not adopt the new consent., and simply continue doing what they are doing. DSC want the court case resolved so that Daracon’s operation are curtailed to State Rail levels in order to restore local amenity, and that the only option for Daracon to increase output is to progress the EIS, and then abide by all conditions imposed by the DPE.

DSC argued that Daracon have systematically delayed the court case. It has already spanned 84 weeks, while most similar matters are resolved within 10 weeks. Daracon have also been slow progressing the EIS and have already stated that responding to all the submissions, and in particular resubmitting versions of the EIS for 1.2 and 0.9 mtpa increases, will take probably to the end of 2017.  With their stated position on reserving their right to only adopt any new consent if it does not disadvantage Daracon, the development application is also being used as a delaying tactic. The court case therefore must be resolved quickly so that the principles of the court can be upheld: That delay is undesirable, and that no party should be prejudiced by delay. In this case residents are being prejudiced every day that Daracon operate as they are. We will post an update when the court’s decision is available.

C. Situation Appraisal

Daracon believe they have an unrestricted license to operate the Martins Creek quarry. They pay no levies for roads, operate the quarry without the costs and restrictions that other quarries have, and will win whatever contracts they can to make profit, with  no compassion for residents.

Daracon are racing to extract whatever rock reserves remain (which have most likely been overstated in the EIS), and have been using the expansion EIS to delay any restrictions being imposed, and/or to hopefully get increases granted by DPE without restrictions that are too onerous being applied.

Daracon certainly don’t want the court case to proceed, as it could put a stop to their current activities that have so impacted residents, and would  force Daracon to rely on the outcome of their EIS with the DPE. A hefty fine is also a possibility.

In our view the crucial factors are: the poor infrastructure, particularly the Gostwick bridge and many inadequate intersections and road sections, and the impact on amenity, employment and the businesses in Paterson (with and without the proposed intersection changes) and along the haul routes. The DPE letter requires Daracon to properly consult with residents.  We take that to mean they must negotiate and  propose some voluntary restrictions, so that  the DPE does not need to impose any. Other quarry projects have had the numbers of trucks and haulage times severely restricted when travelling through villages like Paterson. The DPE is likely to impose significant levies on truck haulage to pay for the very expensive upgrades required for whatever volume of trucks are allowed in a new consent. In the light of the existing rail siding, I expect the DPE would severely restrict road haulage but allow higher quantities to go via rail.

Daracon did not listen to the concerns of residents and modify their proposal to mitigate any of the valid concerns raised. The objections contained in the submissions to the EIS are exactly the same objections that were raised when the expansion was first proposed!

So, with regards to the local Brandy Hill quarry,if Hanson do not include concessions in their EIS on operating hours rather than persisting with 24/7, it will be clear that they also have not taken the SEARs seriously. If there is nothing in their EIS about working with PSC to ensure that road shoulders and intersections are improved in a reasonable timeframe, then again they will also not have taken the SEARS seriously. If there is nothing definite in their EIS about working with PSC to build and maintain a pathway along Brandy Hill Drive linking to Brandon Park and the Jacaranda Preschool, then meaningful consultation will not have occurred. If any of the above are not addressed to residents satisfaction, it is clear that the DPE will ask Hanson to go back to the drawing board for that to happen before they complete their RTS (response to submissions).

D. Next Steps

  • Hopefully the LEC judge will rule next week that the court case proceeds in February.
  • MCQAG will be encouraging us all to attend the court hearing to support the DSC legal team.
  • The court case outcome should be known, hopefully by March/April.
  • The BHQ CCC should meet again in February. The timing of the Brandy Hill Quarry  EIS going on public exhibit is still unclear. Whether it complies with the SEARs better than MCQ, remains to be seen.

Conclusion

The responses of DSC, PSC, RMS and DPE to the MCQ EIS are very encouraging. The LEC case is critical to resolving Daracon’s excessive and illegal unrestricted operations, and then making the EIS the means for setting the rules for ongoing operations.

We are hopeful that Hanson learns from the MCQ process and prepares its EIS to comply with the community consultation aspects of the SEARs.

Thanks for your support. We are making a difference, and will continue to do so.

Have a merry Christmas and may the New Year bring extra happiness.

BHSA

 

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