Opponents of a proposed new quarry at Herons Creek near Wauchope are hoping the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) reject the application arguing such a development would ruin the amenity of their beautiful rural village.
The quarry, capable of producing 200,000 tonnes of agregate a year, is to be located in the Broken Bago State Forest. JRPP will be holding a public determination meeting in Wauchope on Wednesday.
Fighting the development is No New Quarry Herons Creek an organisation made up of community volunteers, like so many similar groups across the state ,opposed to industrial development in rural areas.
Like Gloucester, like Bulga, like Bentley, Herons Creek is a popular tree change destination where residents have left metropolitan areas seeking a quiet rural life in picturesque surrounds.
To their shock and horror many community members are now spending vast amounts of time fighting large scale coal, coal seam gas or in this case a quarry which will be located on crown land managed by the NSW Forestry Corporation.
One thing all of these organisations have in common is their dismay at the maze of regulations and their fear that transparency is often lacking when it comes to changes to planning rules at all levels of government.
Instead of spending time on their farms or enjoying retirement in the bush residents are becoming experts on searching the internet for any snippet of information which may assist them in their campaign.
At Herons Creek CTK Natural Resources Ltd, a company associated with the well known local Cassegrain family, wants to establish a 20 year extractive quarry on crown land 8 kilometres from Wauchope.
Port-Macquarie-Hastings Council in its recently released assessment report for the JRPP is fully supportive of the development.
However, for the opponents the fact the quarry will be located on crown land raises many issues not least being it’s scale and that it will be operated for commercial purposes.
Crown land under Forest Corporation NSW management has been used for quarries for example in northern NSW at Jacks Creek State Forest but only for local government (Narrabri Council) to use the product for their road repairs.
No New Quarry Herons Creek spokesperson Maureen Churnside said members were astounded the project had ever got this far in the planning process – adding it defied logic on so many grounds.
No Quarry Herons Creek are concerned the resource’s quality has not been fully assessed, the quarry site is on top of ridge overlooking regionally significant farmland posing major noise, dust and visual pollution issues.
In addition the quarry’s location also runs the risk of significant water contamination to Herons Creek as well as other tributaries to the Hastings and Camden Haven rivers.
“Our group thinks the development of this new quarry would alleviate the need for the nearby existing Hanson Sancrox Quarry to be expanded,” Mrs Churnside said.
“Plus the Sancrox material has been identified as a regionally significant resource and it is also basalt making it a superior in quality and in higher demand to the rhyolite resource at Herons Creek.
“Perhaps there are other plans for the Sancrox land.”
Back in 1992 the NSW Land and Environment Court rejected an application for a quarry on land that adjoins the current proposal.
For the opponents of the new quarry nothing has changed to make this development any more suitable than the previous attempt to harm their community.
A spokesperson for the Forestry Commission said “A number of quarries operate on State forest land in various locations around NSW. These quarries provide gravel, crushed rock and stone for a range of important uses including upgrading forest and council roads and highways.
“Forestry Corporation of NSW is not responsible for granting or refusing applications for mining exploration licences in State Forests. The Forestry Act 2012 is subordinate to the Mining Act 1992 and the Petroleum (On-shore) Act 1991.
“The timber plantation on the proposed quarry footprint was recently harvested after reaching maturity. If the quarry is approved, a condition will be that the plantation be replanted at the end of the life of the quarry.”
They added an exploration licence is required for exploratory drilling in State forests.