On Tuesday 13th December, item 13 on the Port Stephens Council agenda had councillors debate a petition that was signed by over 500 local people. The petition opposed council’s plan to have two road crossings in the pathway design with the pathway starting from Seaham Road on the south side of BHD, crossing to the other side near Werai Cl then back again north of Tandara Rd. ie the petition supported the pathway remaining on the western side for the full length of BHD.
The council agenda included the recommendation that the petition be rejected and to continue designing the pathway with the two crossings.
Therese, who did all the hard work arranging the petition, was unfortunately unable to attend to speak to council during the public access session. However, Neil Ritchie did speak in support of the pathway petition. Many questions were then asked of Neil and council staff.
Once the formal meeting started, our west ward councillor Giacomo Arnott, successfully moved that item 13 be brought forward so those of us in the audience could hear the debate and then leave. The outcome was unanimously in favour of supporting the petition and to build the pathway on only one side of BHD!
So many thanks to Therese for conducting the petition and everyone that signed it, to Neil for speaking to PSC, to our west ward councillors for supporting us in the debate, and to council for their unanimous vote.
Here are the two most relevant pages from the draft council minutes. A link to the full minutes follows.
Here is the link to the minutes. Select “DRAFT 13 December 2022 – Ordinary Council Minutes – Pages 1-307” and go to Page No 245. (At some point the final minutes will be posted, but the page number may change). Note that the “Background” section relates to the recommendation to reject the petition.
So while there is still much to do regarding planning of the pathway and an acceptable Voluntary Planning Agreement to be negotiated between Hanson and PSC, that is good news leading up to Christmas. Hopefully they pathway will be able to progress early next year.
– Hanson have only the Water Management Plan, the Koala Habitat Plans and Koala Protection Plans still to be signed off to be able to adopt the IPC consent.
– The Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) for the pathway along Brandy Hill Drive plus the bus bays has not yet been signed off with PSC. (I understand the VPA must also be signed off before Hanson can adopt the IPC consent. That infrastructure must be completed before Hanson can expand annual production beyond the current 700,000 tonnes per annum.).
– The petition opposing PSC’s plan to include two road crossings in the pathway was also discussed. (A subsequent post will be forthcoming on the minutes from the December PSC meeting where the petition was addressed).
– PBS trucks and routes were discussed. PBS means “Performance Based Standards” allowing trucks that meet the standards to carry higher loads than normal, but only on roads approved for PBS trucks. Brandy Hill Drive and highways are included on the PBS road network (even though BHD and the intersections at both ends do not meet the standards), PBS trucks cannot use any other route from the quarry eg via Woodville.
– When we receive the link to the approved management plans that will be posted.
Port Stephens Council’s (PSC) online information and consultation meeting was held last Tuesday, with a number of residents participating. These were the points that I noted:
The project is still in the concept phase.
Consultation has occurred with the bus companies, regarding the best locations for the bus stop bays. The proposed locations were not clearly shown on the map provided.
The bus stops that were mentioned along Brandy Hill Drive (BHD) included ones at the intersections with Warrigal, Werai and Tandara. Only 1 bus stop was discussed along Seaham Road, which was at Sophia Jane Drive.
Each bus stop will have bays on both sides of the road. ie for buses travelling in both directions.
PSC identified two pathway route options. Option 1 is their preferred route, which has the pathway in the section between Werai Close (#56 BHD) and #84 BHD on the eastern side of BHD, with the remainder on the south-western side. Option 2 has the pathway all on the south-western side of BHD.
Under option 1, the road crossings would NOT be zebra pedestrian crossings. They would have pedestrian refuges at each side, but pedestrians must give way to traffic at that type of crossing.
Both options require power poles to be moved, necessitating brief power outages. Fewer outages would be needed for option 1.
Both options are likely to require some land acquisitions. ie need to move front boundaries/fences back a short distance. Potentially affected land owners have been consulted.
Where acquisitions are required, landowners will be compensated based on valuations, and fences replaced at PSC expense on a like for like basis.
Where the pathway crosses driveways, these too will be repaired/replaced on a like for like basis. The pathway construction will be consistent with the traffic load at each point. i.e. more robust where vehicle traffic is involved such as on access roads and crossing driveways.
Questions and feedback can be posted onto the above map, as follows: Click and drag one of the icons for Thumbs-up, Ideas or Comments to the applicable map location. Fill in the details, tick agree to terms, and click “Add Comment”. You will receive an email confirmation of your entry.
Please pass this onto your friends, neighbours along BHD and other stakeholders, to encourage them to provide feedback to PSC via the map.
Further consultation, design and costing will be undertaken to eventually produce a detailed plan.
Hanson continues to prepare their management plans that require approval before they can apply to adopt the new consent. Once the new consent is adopted, quarry output cannot exceed the previous limit of 700,000 tonnes per year, until the pathway and bus bays are completed.
The Brandy Hill Quarry Community Consultative Committee met last month by video conference. The finalised minutes and photo of the updated quarry entrance sign are included below. Click “Download” to read the minutes.
The two main topics covered were the progress on the management plans and expected timeframe for Hanson adopting the new consent, and PSC’s progress and expected timeframe for the design and construction of the shared pathway and bus-bays.
The first answer is perhaps late 2021 depending on DPIE approval of the draft management plans, and the second is that PSC have made little progress on even designing the pathway.
(PSC officers promised Margarete in a separate meeting, that there would be community consultations regarding the design and route for the pathway. As that consultation with BHSAG has not yet happened, we can only assume that the design work is not even at a draft stage.
The significance of the pathway is that is is a long overdue for the safety and amenity of residents, and for Hanson, while they can adopt the new consent conditions without the completed pathway, they are restricted to the current 700,000 tonnes per annum. Output can only increase beyond that and up to the 1.5m tonnes per annum limit after the footpath and bus-bays are completed.)
The complaints hotline phone number has been added to the sign
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!
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.”
“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.
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.