Firstly, welcome to those newly following BHSAG.
You have probably already heard the news on radio and TV, in the newspapers and online. Yes, Brandy Hill Quarry has received the final approval needed to continue operating and expand. The federal minister for the environment gave approval on Tuesday, with extra conditions .
Like you, we heard it from the media, having heard nothing directly from the minister. You may have wondered why you have heard most recent developments via the mainstream media, while BHSAG and this website has been silent. Minister Ley has visited the site, met with BHSAG representatives and has been in frequent communication with us, but under strict conditions of non disclosure.
Approving the planned destruction of 52 hectares of environment was the last hurdle for the quarry’s expansion. It was also the first major development to be approved after the black summer bushfires, the NSW senate report on Koalas which predicts their extinction by 2050, and increased acceptance that man made climate change is real and not a myth or conspiracy. It has brought focus on the fact that NSW Planning and the IPC HAD TO APPROVE this development under current laws, regulations and government policy. If the NSW authorities had rejected this quarry expansion, Hanson would have simply taken the matter to the Land and Environment Court, and won. (We did seek legal advice on this).
The federal minister’s decision is final and the only appeal process is via the High Court. While we believe it was strongly influenced by the current government’s culture and policies, again, only the legality of the process and decision can be challenged. The weight of public opinion counts little in courts. The ongoing focus must be on changing the laws, and government policy.
This post has been delayed by the other pressing matters arising from the announcement this week. Here is a summary of the events.
Wednesday’ Newcastle Herald:
Newcastle Herald 28th October Cover
We were disappointed at the decision and stand to lose 52 hectares of established habitat for 74 hectares of land needing to be planted and we all know how long it will take for those trees to grow. In the meantime the koalas wait in limbo??
A significant condition was added to the approval (see download below). 74 hectares of pasture on the south side of quarry site must be regenerated as koala habitat. This would not have been achieved without the efforts of all who participated in the “Save Port Stephens Koalas” campaign.
The details of the Federal Minister’s approval are available via the download links below. This is from the first document:
- “Within 12 months of the date of this approval, the approval holder must submit a Koala habitat replanting and protection plan (Habitat Plan) for the Minister’s approval. The Habitat Plan must include, but not be limited to:
a) Measures for natural regeneration and replanting of at least 73.8 ha of the area to the south of the existing Quarry (marked as Planting Area 1 to Area 5 in Annexure 2) to establish Koala habitat.”
While there is a lot of government “spin” in the above, and and many points that we disagree with, it is what it is.
Then in todays Newcastle Herald:
Newcastle Herald 29th October Cover
The Examiner has also always been very supportive. Here are today’s edition pages:
Port Stephens Examiner Today
Hanson had their own press release (see download below):
Hanson;’s paragaraph in the above states:
“Throughout the assessment process Hanson has sought to understand the concerns
of the community. This feedback is demonstrated in the expansion plans, which
• Revegetation of a 74ha koala habitat corridor.
• Conservation of approximately 450ha of vegetation under a biodiversity offset.
• Construction of new bus bays and a shared pathway along Brandy Hill Drive.
• Enclosure of all processing equipment for best practice management of dust and
• A program of community engagement and events.“
Hanson may well have “sought to understand the concerns of the community”, but only the biodiversity offset was offered within the EIS and Response to Submissions, as it was a legal requirement.
The 74ha koala corridor, bus bays, shared pathway, and the enclosure of equipment are only on the list because the Department of Planning, IPC and federal minister made them conditions of the consent. Additionally, the IPCs restriction of operating hours to 6am to mostly 6pm 6 days a week (as per the original and still current consent) was probably the most important factor in saving the character and amenity of the area, and saving the wildlife on the transport routes after dark. That was a huge change from the 24/7 sought by Hanson. All of these restrictions and conditions would not have been but for the efforts of BHSAG and the support of the community.
So, please do not be despondent. We may not have achieved everything we hoped for, but we have achieved a great amount, which will make Brandy Hill, Seaham and Nelsons Plains much better places to live over the next 30 years. Now we can hold Hanson accountable for all the conditions they have to meet under the new consent
Our thanks go out to the whole community, but particular thanks to you reading this post, past and present BHSAG committee members, Chantal and Anne Marie with help from Victoria in being at the forefront of the koala campaign, Kate Washington (Member for Port Stephens), Cate Faehrmann (Greens Senator), and for the support of VOWW. A lot of people have put a lot of time into this cause. Thank you, it is a really appreciated.
BHSAG and VOWW’s jobs have not finished. Community groups are required now more than ever. This is not the end of the story.
Thank you to Neil for compiling this post. It is a time-consuming task but appreciated by all.