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.

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.

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.

Brandy Hill Quarry Hours of Operation

The IPC decision on future hours of operation has basically carried the current consent conditions forward. The key IPC condition is that product loading and despatch and quarrying operations are limited to 6am to 6pm Monday to Saturday, and at no time on Sundays or public holidays. This is the same as the 1983 EIS and consent, with the exception that the latter does not mention public holidays, and there are exceptions for maintenance and secondary/tertiary crushing. The 1983 consent conditions will remain in effect until Hanson formally advises the DPIE of the “date of Commencement” of the new consent.

The hours of operation were one of the principal issues we had with Hanson’s proposal, and has been a frequent matter for complaints about noise in the early morning and into the night. We were frustrated by PSC’s non enforcement of this matter, which we understand was partly due to the uncertainty about what the IPC would determine for the future.

That uncertainty has now gone, so I have written to PSC to properly enforce the hours of operation while they remain the consent authority.

So if you see gravel trucks entering the quarry before 6am or after 6pm Monday to Saturday, or at any time on Sundays, or hear any quarrying or crushing noise outside 6am to 6pm Monday to Saturday, please lodge your complaint with PSC. You can also complain on the HANSON Hotline, but PSC is the consent authority responsible for enforcement, so they are the prime contact, until the new consent comes into force.

IPC Determination!

We received the following at 5.05 PM today from NSW Planning:

Please be advised that the Determination for the Brandy Hill Quarry Expansion Project is now available on the IPCN website:

https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/projects/2020/05/brandy-hill-quarry-expansion-project-ssd-5899

The wait is over! Please read the 3 documents from the IPC, either from the above website near the top under the heading “DETERMINATION”, or attached at the end of this post, to draw your own conclusions.

The IPC has basically endorsed the recommendations from the DPIE with some improvements in favour of the community.

  • The 6 bus bays and pathway must be completed BEFORE annual production can exceed 700,000 tonnes
  • No trucks before 6am
  • Enclosure of all fixed processing equipment from stage 1.

There will be many disappointments for the community, but also many for Hanson, so perhaps there is some balance.

Clearly, without the efforts of so many community members, the outcome would have been much worse, so I thank you all.

The three IPC determination documents are available below:

Brandy Hill Quarry is on NSW Government List of Projects to be “Fast Tracked”

If you have heard that the quarry is on the government’s list of projects to be fast tracked, don’t be alarmed. We have been assured by the IPC that, as the quarry project is already before the Commission, there will be no short cuts or by-passing due process.

Kate Washington also pointed out that the Brandy Hill Quarry project has one of the least employment and capital values of all the projects listed. We note that the employment figure of 31 is inflated compared to Hanson’s figure of 18 in other publications. Here is the full list of fast tracked projects:
https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/-/media/Files/DPE/Media-Releases/2020/June/fast-tracked-assessments-tranche-three-2020-06.pdf

Hanson Complaint Hotline

On 29th April we received the following email from the quarry CCC Chairperson Lisa Andrews, regarding who to contact with complaints about the quarry. This was the first time we had been notified of the Hotline in all the years since the CCC was formed! Please make use of it to report your first hand experience of problems. It could still be some time before the SSDA is finalised, so keep reporting problems.

We all know that Hanson disregard the conditions of consent, but they also use the lack of complaints as justification to keep doing it. For example, in this document to the DPIE on the 11th May: https://majorprojects.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/prweb/PRRestService/mp/01/getContent?AttachRef=SSD-5899%2120200521T005501.926%20GMT
they say:

Already in 2020, the normal operating hours to 10:00pm of the secondary and tertiary equipment have been required on 60 evenings. It is notable that Hanson has not received any complaints about these evening operations.”

Dear CCC members,

I hope you are all well during these unprecedented times.
Recently multiple Hanson staff have been receiving numerous enquiries and complaints regarding Brandy Hill Quarry. Hanson understands the importance in providing an avenue for community members to ask questions and lodge complaints regarding a Hanson site. However, while the site remains compliant with its development consent and Environmental Protection Licence conditions, staff are somewhat limited in their ability to appease the concern of some residents. In the interest of all parties Hanson is providing a more formal procedure of communication to ensure all complaints are captured, investigated and responded to.  Accordingly, we are asking CCC members to pass along to the broader community the following details regarding Brandy Hill Quarry environmental enquiries or complaints:

Hanson Hotline: 1800 882 478

Port Stephens Council: 02 4988 0255

EPA Environmental Line: 131 555

The Hanson Hotline provides community members a way to contact Hanson regarding any concerns, enquiries or complaints while allowing a streamlined avenue in tracking the issue and providing a response to the complainant. This is also the number provided on signage associated with the quarry.

Finally, Port Stephens have overall responsibility for the current Brandy Hill Quarry consent.  Should you have any complaints and/or enquiries relating to the approval conditions for the quarry, please lodge them with Council directly.  Please note that as the site’s regulatory authority, complaints and/or enquiries regarding the environmental performance of the quarry, may be lodged through the EPA’s Environmental Line.

I trust this information is of assistance.

Kind regards,
Belinda Pignone
Environmental Planning & Compliance Coordinator

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.
Thank you and regards

Lisa
Lisa Andrews
Independent Chairperson &
Director
Articulate Solutions Pty Ltd
t: 0401 609 693
e: lisaandrews.ic@gmail.com

So despite lack of success with complaints to date, keep them coming as the DPIE and IPC will be monitoring the complaint register (we hope).