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Byron Shire
September 20, 2021

Quarry redevelopment for housing inappropriate

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The Broken Head Quarry has been one of the most controversial developments in the Byron Shire’s history attracting more submissions than the high profile Club Med development proposal.

I am shocked that a proposal for the redevelopment of the Broken Head Quarry site for a residential development has been advertised by the council without any strategic planning proposal.

A lack of public awareness including a very short time frame for submissions (July 21 is the closing date) and no consideration of the requirements of the 1999 state ministerial approval that required rehabilitation of the site in line with an EIS submitted for the 1997 DA for the expansion of the quarry is a betrayal of the council’s responsibility to ensure that applications are assessed for conformity with planning provisions prior to exhibition.

The site is of high ecological significance and sits within a wildlife corridor, features endangered species habitat including at least 13 threatened fauna species and a history of impacting on the cultural and ecological values of the identified Aboriginal Place, Ti Tree Lake as well as being of important visual significance from iconic sites such as Cape Byron and Broken Head.

The approval of the reduced scale of the quarry in 1999 was predicated on the resource needs for the upgrading of the Pacific Highway but clearly allowed the destruction of some of the shire’s most significant biodiversity.

The long history of the controversial quarry development included its operation without approval since legislative changes in 1986. A flawed DA was submitted in 1992 and approved by council in 1993 and then challenged by Broken Head Protection Committee and Peter Helman, resulting in the 1995 Supreme Court judgement that overturned the council’s approval due to the failure of the DA to comply with environmental legislation.

A new DA was submitted in 1997 for a 27-year extension of the quarry life. Byron Shire councillor and Greens MLC Ian Cohen requested the state establish a Commission of Inquiry for the development. In 1999, after the inquiry, planning minister Andrew Refshauge gave approval for a reduced area of quarrying, a limited life of 17 years for quarrying on the eastern side, overall quarrying restriction to 22 years and a requirement that the proposal commit to the EIS which identified the rehabilitation of the site on a progressive basis as well as at the end of the extraction process.

A community consultative committee was also prescribed to oversee the monitoring and implementation of the quarry development but it appears that the council no longer facilitates this process, which was identified to ensure the ongoing monitoring and compliance with the approval and a report should be provided to the community on the history of development compliance with the approval.

The outstanding coastal site is approximately 60 hectares currently zoned as 1e) extractive industries but also features almost 25ha of identified environmental zones but under the new LEP it is primarily zoned RU1 (Primary Production) which is due to come into force on the 21 July 2014. The land is not featured in the council’s map for community title development and fails to meet the zoning requirements for residential subdivision.

The coastal site has not been considered in the Far North Coast Regional Strategy and is not required to meet state requirements for dwelling delivery. However the NSW Coastal Policy does contain clear actions for addressing important coastal ecological, scenic, cultural and water quality values.

It appears the application was submitted for consideration prior to the enactment of the new LEP but is clearly an ad hoc proposal with no background in strategic planning. It is obviously a proposal that seeks to deliver a massive return for the owners of the quarry without consideration of the history of development, the ecological and cultural impacts of development on that site and is exhibited without the consideration by the broader community in a properly focussed assessment such as the long overdue Local Growth Management Study.

As a long-term campaigner for the preservation of Broken Head’s unique and significant ecological values and a member of the Broken Head Protection Committee that took legal action over the council’s earlier approval in 1993, it is a great shock to me that such a proposal could be accepted and exhibited by the council without the appropriate consideration of the prior approvals and the current need for biodiversity protection. A commitment to ensure that the inappropriate industries of the past and it’ impacts are reviewed and the opportunity to return this significant site and it’s many endangered species to a status of protection and enhancement is a priority for this significant site.

The site consists of high value vegetation and ecological communities and is an important link in the fragile wildlife corridor that was identified over 20 years ago and features in the Byron Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. The minister’s approval of the site for quarrying in 1999 was prescribed to align with the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) submitted with the 1997 DA, despite identified flaws in the proposal. The EIS identified the rehabilitation of the significant site after the completion of extraction of the mineral resources deemed to be of state significance at the time. The current application itself notes that, ‘The consent (DA 97/0465) requires rehabilitation to take place in the manner described in the project’s EIS (Corkery 1997) and/or to the satisfaction of the council. The EIS stated that the long term rehabilitation objective was to ensure that all disturbed land was returned to a safe, stable, vegetated and well drained landform to provide options for future land uses.’

There is no doubt that after decades of environmental destruction this site should be returned to a rehabilitated state that can sustain the high value ecological attributes and enhance the habitats for the 13 threatened fauna species recorded within or adjacent to the site and the complex, significant and poorly represented vegetation types in this coastal location. The proposal must be refused by council and if there is any consideration of future residential use of these lands then an assessment should be undertaken in an open and transparent manner that involves the community in a discussion that considers the history and the responsibility of council to meet Ecologically Sustainable Development standards.

Any new development must comply with all legislation that applies to this significant coastal site, recognising that for too long it was subjected to damaging impacts by the quarrying that was prioritised to support extractive industry in the coastal zone to facilitate the road building and construction program of the state to the detriment of an area recognised as an ecolgical jewel in the crown for the north coast.

There is a responsibility to recognise that past development practices such as the destruction of this ecological treasure trove were inappropriate, but deemed necessary and that we now have the opportunity to ensure the protection and enhancement of an area of outstanding national significance. The site features habitat for a number of threatened species including the Long-nosed Potoroo, Masked Owl, Wallum froglet and has prior records of koalas and could provide necessary habitat for continued viability of biodiversity if.

The current DA states that, ‘The proposal complies with applicable development standards and guidelines. It is compatible with strategic objectives for the area.’ This is a misrepresentation of the planning processes that currently exist for the site and the application should’ve been recognised as inappropriate for the site and refused, rather than being exhibited and setting it up for consideration by a council that now appears to have abandoned the decades of commitment to strategic planning and biodiversity protection that the community expects.

I encourage residents to make a submission opposing this inappropriate application for this significant site and demand rehabilitation and protection of our unique biodiversity that has been subjected to destructive development for too long

Jan Barham MLC, Broken Head

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