The Planning Assessment Commission has approved the extension of Champions Quarry in Tucki, near Lismore.
The approval allows the quarry’s owners to increase extraction from 60,000 to 250,000 tonnes of rock per year. This is 50,000 tonnes more than they applied for and permits them to quarry down to a depth of 12 metres at the central area and 8m in the southern area. Critics say this will have the effect of ‘levelling’ a hill on the site.
Quarrying can continue at the site until 2038.
In line with a number of recent Planning Assessment Commission decisions, it comes on the heels of a refusal by Lismore City Council and a rejected appeal by the Land and Environment Court.
But the PAC deemed it a ‘state significant development’ and accepted the proponent’s argument that it was environmentally appropriate because it would minimise the carbon footprint of trucks hauling materials for the Pacific Highway extension.
Up to 100 truck movements a day are allowed in and out of the quarry, with 50 ‘laden truck’ movements permitted daily and up to five per hour. Trucks will not be allowed to use unmade Hazelmount Lane, however, except for some in the early construction phase.
Hours of operation will be from 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays. Rock hammers will be allowed to operate from 9am to noon and 2pm to 4pm on weekdays.
Noise is allowed up to 42 decibels during construction and 37 decibels during operation as recorded by receivers on privately owned land near the quarry.
Deposited dust can double from two to four grams per square metre per month.
The approval does require the quarry to conduct archaeological investigations for Aboriginal artefacts on the site and to prepare a Heritage Management Plan.
One of the 33 speakers at the PAC hearing on August 15 spoke of the existence of a rare and sacred Tucki Bora ring on the site and showed photos of Aboriginal ceremonies being conducted there. The approval makes no mention of the Bora Ring.
Apart from complaints regarding the increase to noise and dust, the Commission also heard from some residents that they felt betrayed by the proponent, who had sold them the land they lived on many years ago for a quiet country life.
‘Some families bought directly from the developer. It is not okay to have misled and taken advantage of community members. It is not okay to further develop the quarry now,’ local resident Tina Robertson told the meeting.
But the quarry’s owner, Jeff Champion, told ABC radio this morning he thought the PAC’s conditions were fair.
‘If you’re operating a quarry, any nearby residents need that protection from unreasonable noise or visual effects. All those conditions are in and the increased production won’t be able to commence for probably about six months.’