Seeking volunteers for a community survey workshop 27th May at Woodville School Of Arts Hall.

Residents between Seaham and Woodville have been extended an invitation to be part of a survey conducted through the University of Canberra, researching the difficulties (if there are any) in this area moving forward on a range of social , environmental, development issues and more. This is being conducted throughout Australia and is in relation to the DOTE (Dropping off the EDGE) longitudinal study.

I have agreed to help facilitate the meetings and that is why I am sharing the information through this website and related Facebook posts. Please read the following information carefully and if you are interested respond directly to RSVP on the flyer attached.

The format will be 2 workshops of 6-8 people each on Thursday 27th May. Time 10.30am – midday and 5.30pm – 7pm. Refreshments will be provided. Please refer to the document below.

I believe this could be a valuable exercise in understanding how we as a community see our strengths and weaknesses and also to understand how we look to the future.

New 80kph Speed limit between Seaham and Hinton Rd Nelsons Plains

I have been advised that the speed limit on Seaham Road between Seaham and the vicinity of the intersection with Hinton Road Nelsons plains, has been reduced from 90 to 80kph.

This is after years of lobbying by VOWW, BHSAG and local residents, with the support of both Hanson and PSC.

Of particular concern has been the intersection with Hinton Road where nearby residents have endured years of angst from countless close shaves and accidents that leave car part debris strewn around. The intersection remains a concern due to the lack of passing and turning lanes. Bus stop safety and that of residents accessing their driveways along this section of Seaham Road has been the other major concern. The speed reduction will give drivers more time to react to slow and turning vehicles, and hopefully will reduce the severity of any collisions that do occur.

This change is consistent with the 80kph speed limit that was introduced on Clarence Town Road and Butterwick Road in 2019.

We are pleased that the speed limit reduction has been implemented before the pending increase in quarry truck movements from the approved quarry expansion, Hanson continue to work toward being able to adopt the new consent.

So please be mindful of the new speed limit, for the safety of locals and other road users, and to avoid speeding fines. As you know, the police and mobile speed cameras do monitor our roads. Also be mindful of mobile phone use camera trailers that have been seen operating in the area.

I have not found any media release from Transport for NSW on the matter, but did notice workmen at the end of Brandy Hill Drive, possibly installing the new signs. If there is any further information come o light, we will keep you informed.

Stay safe.

First CCC Meeting Since Quarry Approval

Hanson held a Community Consultative Committee (CCC) Meeting on the 8th December, the first meeting since June and the first since the quarry received approval from the Federal Minister for the Environment.

The main points of interest for BHSAG and followers were:

  • Current members of the CCC will remain for as long as they wish.
    Peter Rees has resigned from the CCC so his and any other vacancies will be advised and refilled in due course. We thank Peter for his significant efforts through the CCC toward protecting the amenity and character of the area, particularly for Woodville and those along the haulage route to Maitland.
  • The chairperson advised that the CCC would be held quarterly in accordance with the guidelines and consent conditions for the full term of quarry operations, including rehabilitation.
  • Hanson is busy preparing the various management plans as required by the IPC and minister approval conditions. These include Noise, Air, Water, Environmental, Blasting, Traffic (including the drivers code of conduct.), Biodiversity and Rehabilitation. The plans will need to be submitted to the Department of Planning and Environment (DPIE), and be updated as required until they gain the departments approval.
  • While Hanson claims that all processing equipment currently meets the noise criteria, they have undertaken to upgrade the primary crusher with a noise enclosure, to minimize the impacts on nearby residents and meet “best practice”. Hopefully, best practices will be mandated by the department for all other processing equipment as well.
  • Hanson is hopeful that their management plans will be submitted and approved by March 2021, but know that these processes can take much longer than expected.
  • Regarding the revegetation required by the federal minister, the priority will be on plantings to add to the koala corridor to the south of the current woodland. That is anticipated to start in autumn 2021. A 5 year program of plantings is anticipated.
  • Hanson is keen to commence discussions with PSC on the VPA in regard to construction of the bus bays and shared footpath. The issue for Hanson is that while they can provide their contribution as specified in the IPC determination, PSC must provide the balance of any funds required, and don’t yet have a costed design plan, budget or timeframe for completion of the infrastructure. Hanson can adopt the IPC consent, but cannot exceed 700,000 tones per annum until the bus bays and footpath are completed.
  • BHSAG are concerned that PSC will not provide a design that meets NSW standards for a shared footpath, and/or will delay its construction to the detriment of community safety and Hanson’s expansion.
  • Hanson acknowledged that under the new consent, transport routes must be adhered to for both outward loads and returning vehicles. That will mean Richardson Rd will be used instead of Adelaide St to Heatherbrae, and trucks must not use Raymond Terrace Road or go via Morpeth to/from the New England Highway or M1.
  • The quarry still has reserves available under the 1983 consent, but these are running out. The economy downturn due to COVID reduced demand, resulting in the current reserves lasting longer than was predicted earlier this year.
  • The speed limit on Seaham Road between Brandy Hill and the floodplain to Raymond Terrace was discussed. The intersection with Hinton Road is a particular hazard point, with locals collecting the equivalent of a skip bin full of wing mirrors and car parts from near misses in recent years. Hanson supports the lowering of speed limits in the area.
  • It was proposed to hold the next meeting on Wednesday 17th March, when more will be known on the status of the various management plans.

After the CCC meeting, Andrew Driver asked Margarete if she would agree to being a community representative on the VPA committee. Margarete agreed, but PSC subsequently denied Hanson’s request for a community representative. The first VPA meeting was held today by video link, but we have not had any feedback yet.

Before the CCC meeting, Neil had discussed the status with the DPIE. That discussion was consistent with the points above. PSC remains the consent authority. The steps toward the Department of Planning becoming the consent authority are as follows:

  • Hanson must complete the various management plans to the satisfaction of the DPIE and federal minister..
  • Hanson must complete any engineering required to meet the management plans. (They say there is very little required).
  • Once Hanson can comply with all of the conditions in the approved management plans, at a time when they wish to, they give notice in writing that they want to adopt the new consent, giving 1 months notice.
  • When the department approves the request, the new consent comes into force and the 1983 consent lapses.
  • The DPIE has a section that will then manage consent compliance for the duration of the project..

The above is expected to take some months. Hanson don’t have the luxury of continuing to operate indefinitely under the old (more lenient) consent, as they will soon run out of available rock under that consent.

So PSC will remain he consent authority for some months yet. If you have any issues with quarry operating hours, transport etc, contact PSC and Hanson’s Complaints Hotline:

Hanson Hotline: 1800 882 478

Port Stephens Council: 02 4988 0255

BHSAG welcomes new people following our website, and wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and COVID restriction free 2021.

At this stage we are not expecting to post anything about the quarry until after the next CCC meeting. However, there are a number of other local issues with proposed rezonings for development that are likely to trigger a post or two!

Thanks for your support.

Brandy Hill Quarry Approved!

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

Page 15

Page 6

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:

  1. “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

Page 6

Page 7

The Examiner has also always been very supportive. Here are today’s edition pages:

Port Stephens Examiner Today

Page 2

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
include:
• 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
noise.
• 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.

Urgent call for info on local koala sightings

Victoria, who is coordinating the Save Port Stephens Koalas campaign, is making this urgent plea:

Have you seen or heard koalas in Brandy Hill, Seaham or surrounding suburbs within the past six years?

We’re urgently compiling community info about koalas within a 10-kilometre radius of Brandy Hill Quarry.

Your info will be taken into account as part of an assessment that will inform federal environment minister Sussan Ley’s decision on the quarry expansion.

If we can document as much community info on koalas as possible, it might just be enough to save 52 hectares of critical koala habitat from being destroyed.

Our deadline is midnight, Sunday 11 October.

Please send the following details to saveportstephenskoalas@gmail.com:

  • Date
  • Location (as precise as possible – i.e. street and nearest cross street, or approx. X metres from [landmark])
  • Description (What did you see/hear? Description of appearance of koala/s)
  • Have you reported this info anywhere else (e.g. I Spy Koala app, Koala Tracker)

Bonus points if you have photos / video you can send – but no problem if not.

Thanks,

Victoria

Minister Sussan Ley delays Brandy Hill quarry decision until October 30

This was reported today on the Newcastle Herald website.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture Water and the Environment said the time frame will allow for the completion and consideration of additional site survey work.

The state government approved the quarry expansion in July but federal environment minister Susan Ley will have the final say on whether it can go ahead.

The full article may be in the Herald tomorrow.

End-September Update

Firstly, welcome to everyone who follows our website, and particularly those people who have recently joined us.

BHSAG and VOWW have been very busy since May. This update covers activities since the NSW IPC’s 16th July approval of the Brandy Hill quarry expansion, which remains subject to signoff by federal minister for the Environment by 13th October.

Considerable efforts have been directed to ensure the Federal Minister for the Environment has independent current data on the local Koala population, and understands public sentiment on this matter. These efforts have resulted in considerable ongoing media coverage centred on the Facebook campaign “Save Port Stephens Koalas”.  This group now has nearly 4,500 members, locally, nationally and internationally.  You may have seen some of the extensive radio, TV, newspaper and online coverage.   There has been significant celebrity interest and involvement, including Olivia Newton-John, Jimmy Barnes, Magda Szubanski, and Shaynna Blaze.  The Federal Environment Minister met with Campaign Managers and the University Koala Experts last week.  It is still very important that you express your views to the Minister, as per our previous post.  
We are not currently proposing any protest meetings/marches.

One of the many Koala sightings in the area

A team of professional koala experts at the Newcastle University were engaged by BHSAG/VOWW to conduct a koala survey.  They thoroughly researched the koala habitat surrounding the Brandy Hill quarry site. Their report states the quarry expansion would destroy some of the most valuable koala habitat in Port Stephens.  The area is also a critical breeding corridor.  The Brandy Hill/Seaham area is the last in-land koala ‘hub’ and over 40 separate sightings of koalas have been made by locals, within quarry land or in close proximity to the site, since the campaign began.  Breeding female koalas and bellowing males show this is an important breeding ground.   

In addition to quarry matters, VOWW continues to be involved with inappropriate rezoning proposals. A developer wants to have land at 610 Seaham Rd rezoned to small lot rural-residential (<0.8ha). This garnered opposition from the adjacent chicken, turkey and beef farmers. VOWW committee provided support at two council meetings. Despite these efforts,  PSC decided to refer the rezoning to the NSW Planning’s “Gateway” process. Unless Gateway rejects it outright this will go to public exhibit and seek public comment, before a decision is made.

Another inappropriate rezoning to small lot rural-residential in Giles Road was also opposed at a recent council meeting. Fortunately, PSC decided to reject that proposal.

There are other rezoning proposals in the Seaham, Brandy Hill and Nelsons plans areas that we will keep you informed about. One, to rezone part of 792 Seaham Rd (the old Eskdale property) to 2 hectare rural residential, seems to be in keeping with adjacent estates, but we await the details.

BHSAG has also been in contact with DPIE regarding Hanson’s management plan for compliance with the new IPC conditions. DPIE expects Hanson to take up the new consent later this year. Perhaps they are really running out of available rock under the old consent.

BHSAG continues to correspond with PSC regarding Hanson’s trucks ongoing breach of conditions by despatching prior to 6am.

We have also been in contact with our Councillors, to ensure that the bus bays and shared footpath as required under the new consent, are fit for purpose. Given that the roads do not currently meet standards for contemporary quarry trucks, the shared footpath is even more essential for the future safety of pedestrians and cyclists, particularly as trucks are expected to get heavier and longer over the life of the new consent.

We have been contacted by a resident of Woodberry, regarding large numbers of quarry trucks using Raymond Terrace and Woodberry Roads and the Tarro railway bridge and highway interchange. They believe these are Brandy Hill Quarry trucks, using routes that are not approved under either the current or IPC consents.

How can you help VOWW and the BHSAG committee and the work they are doing to fight inappropriate development in West Ward, and to hold PSC accountable?

Become a member of VOWW (BHSAG is a subcommittee of VOWW), an incorporated body to represent you , the local residents. See attached membership application form for details of how to submit your application and pay the $5 annual fee.

Let us show PSC that we are not just “THOSE PEOPLE”, a vocal minority (to be ignored), but a vocal majority! If we don’t act on issues now, we stand to lose our local character and amenity to big developers, who have no regard for us or the environment. We are not opposed to development, just that which is inappropriate for the area. Remember why you chose to live where you do.

Approved Hours Of Operation

It seems Hanson has curtailed crushing operations outside of the approved hours. That is very welcomed as it has greatly improved the lives of people living in neighbouring properties. Thank you Hanson.

However, Hanson continues to have trucks entering and leaving prior to 6am on most weekday mornings, detracting from the rural amenity along the haul route, and endangering wildlife. Both were reasons the IPC only allowed truck movements after 6am.

The following is the latest reply from PSC on the matter. If you have first hand evidence of unlawful truck movements outside 6am to 6pm Monday to Saturday, please lodge your complaint with PSC.

Urgent Action Required – PSC to Debate Rezoning 610 Seaham Rd Nelsons Plains on 25th August

Please email or phone councillors tonight or first thing tomorrow, if you have any objections to this rezoning, as it will be voted on tomorrow evening.

At tomorrow’s council meeting, councillors will debate the re-zoning  of farmland at 610 Seaham Rd, Nelson’s Plains from Rural (RU1) to residential (RU5). No one in the community has been made aware of this and as a consequence no objections have been lodged with councillors. The developer of this land has however personally lobbied councillors individually. Developers have a history of getting around the council and state laws with no regard to the community that will most likely to be affected. In this case there will need to be changes made to several council rules regarding access to Seaham Rd., distances to odour sources such as the chicken farms, reduce the minimum lot size, etc.

This potential re-zoning is contrary to all council planning guidelines and the term “rural Lifestyle” does nothing to mitigate the loss of productive farmland and the potential loss of investment and livelihood of the 3 surrounding chicken farms.
We urgently need to get the message to councillors before tomorrow’s meeting that you are opposed to this rezoning.

Here are some of the arguments against.

The local farmers object to this because it places extra pressure on their farming practices. Eg: the need to improve pasture land means spreading fertiliser like chicken manure which will obviously annoy any new housing residents.
The chicken sheds which create odour by their very nature and also night time operation, will be at risk. There are guidelines for new housing close to chicken sheds and agricultural for these very reasons and these guidelines will not be met by rezoning.
The rezoning would be contrary to council’s own planning guidelines for rural West Ward and also contrary to NSW planning guidelines.
An extra road intersection onto Seaham Road would add an extra danger with the possibility of 600 trucks per day from the Hanson quarry, should it get the final go-ahead.
Housing in close proximity to floodplain with stormwater run off and potential for polluting the Williams River.
The reduction of lot sizes below the 1ha, to 8000 square metres.
Incompatible land use in the midst of farm and chicken farm. There will be pressure to then close down this chicken industry.
Main argument is the preservation of valuable, productive farmland and agricultural use. Once this is lost it cannot be regained.

Please email or phone your objections to every councillor by tomorrow. The timeline is crucial. As early as possible. Note the P LeMottee has advised he will abstain due to conflict of interests.

Here is a link to the PSC papers, and go to page 98.

https://www.portstephens.nsw.gov.au/trim/council-minutes-2020?RecordNumber=20%2F260273.

Cr Ryan Palmer
mayor@portstephens.nsw.gov.au | 0402 749 467

East Ward
glen.dunkley@portstephens.nsw.gov.au | 0438 550 356

jaimie.abbott@portstephens.nsw.gov.au | 0403 176 298

john.nell@portstephens.nsw.gov.au | 0419 375 059

Central Ward
chris.doohan@portstephens.nsw.gov.au | 0434 601 957

sarah.smith@portstephens.nsw.gov.au | 0421 317 173

steve.tucker@portstephens.nsw.gov.au | 0437 045 940

West Ward
giacomo.arnott@portstephens.nsw.gov.au | 0468 391 459

ken.jordan@portstephens.nsw.gov.au | 0422 781 180

paul.lemottee@portstephens.nsw.gov.au | 0414 548 525

Welcome to new people following our group.
Thanks for everyone’s support.
Margarete Ritchie.
VOWW.

Loss of Habitat from Quarry Expansion

HAVE YOUR SAY!

The Brandy Hill quarry expansion has been an issue for the community since mid 2013. At that time the main concern for residents centred on 24/7 operations and safety along the road haulage routes. But over the last 7 years other issues have arisen: dust, noise and biodiversity to name but a few. While the IPC determination has addressed some of these issues, biodiversity was left in limbo. The submissions made by VOWW and BHSAG in 2017 were based on information available at the time. Since then far more has come to light.

Information was requested of Hanson which was previously unavailable due to “commercial in confidence “ and our own research has revealed a far greater biodiversity impact than was previously understood on the proposed expansion site. Of particular note, is a report commissioned by Hanson for their EIS, dated February 2019 and sent to Department of Planning and is therefore on public record. Findings in this report brought to life the detrimental impact the clearing of 52 hectares of core koala habitat would have on the local koala population. Changes in federal and state environmental law (spec. koala), drought conditions, increased development and the Black Summer bushfires over recent times has pushed the importance of protecting our local koala population to even greater significance. The information on which the IPC based it’s determination was a 2015 koala survey provided by Hanson. No information was provided nor requested on the CURRENT status. We have a significant local koala population and it is one of the last remaining healthy colonies in the Port Stephens region.

There is now strong evidence that we have breeding females and an active core colony in the area. An updated survey must be requested. You may have seen heightened activity on social media as well as in main stream media on the significance of the Brandy Hill koala population. We must not lose sight of the fact that the bulldozing of land for the expansion will also affect other endangered species including the grey-headed flying fox, regent honeyeaters, spot-tail quoll and swift parrot. The Brandy Hill quarry expansion was approved by the NSW government just 2 weeks after a parliamentary enquiry found koalas in the State would be extinct by 2050 without urgent government intervention. Minister Ley has the final say on approving the quarry expansion. Remember, the number one threat to koalas and other wildlife is destruction and fragmentation of habitat.

If you want to voice your opinion please contact the Federal Environment Minister. On the 8th September, Sussan Ley will make her final decision on whether the expansion of Brandy Hill quarry will go ahead. You can use your social media accounts to call on the Minister to #savePortStephenskoalas. Don’t forget to tag!

Facebook: @SussanLeyMP
Twitter: @SussanLey
Instagram: @SussanLeyMP

or email by using the link on the “The Hon. Sussan Ley MP” homepage.