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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Can koalas and quarry blasting co-exist?

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One of the koalas spotted at a quarry at Ruthven during an inspection this week.
One of the koalas spotted at a quarry at Ruthven during an inspection this week.

Darren Coyne

Koalas will be a hot topic tonight when Lismore councillors consider an application to allow blasting at a quarry about 18 kilometres from the city.

Operators of McDonalds Quarry at Flood Reserve Road, Ruthven, have lodged an application to vary the quarry’s consent conditions to allow up to five blasts each year.

The quarry was first approved in the early 1990s for the production of 6000 cubic metres per annum

That rate was increased to 14,700 cubic metres in 1996, given the quarry an expected life of 73 years.

But the applicants have told the council they encountered hard rock at much shallower levels than expected, and that blasting would help break up that rock for processing.

The application also resulted in six submissions, mainly from nearly residents, raising concerns about the impact of blasting on the koala population, as well as the possibility of damage to homes and a dam on the quarry site.

The Ngulingah Local Aboriginal Land Council also requested that it be kept informed if the applicant was removing or disturbing topsoil at the site.

During an inspection of the site this week, a number of koalas were spotted in the trees around the quarry.

During an inspection of the site this week, a number of koalas were spotted in the trees around the quarry.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell posted a number of photos showing koalas feeding in the trees around the quarry.

The application is expected to meet with some stiff resistance tonight, and council staff have recommended that it be refused despite a report prepared for the applicants that supports blasting.

A report by consulting company, JWA Pty Ltd, argues that there has been quarry noise associated with the sites since its initial approval in 1996.

In a section of the report titled Impacts of Blasting Activities on Koalas, the consultants acknowledge ‘there is little information available on the effects of noise on animals, however, the information available suggests that long term exposure to noise my have an effect on the behaviour and possibly even the habitat of some wildlife’.

The consultants say that blasts are relatively short in duration as opposed to the noise generated by rock crushing machines and trucks.

They propose a number of precautionary measures such as locating koalas within 180 metres of the blast site, devising a blasting program that takes into account factors such as wind direction and having phone contact with a vet.

But in their report to councillors, staff say the application does not adequately address the potential impacts

‘Councillors must form an opinion whether the information presented in the report by JWA Pty Ltd dated 16 June 2015 satisfactorily addresses the impact upon local koalas and makes appropriate recommendations to mitigate potential adverse impacts,’ staff wrote.

‘If it is concluded the information is not sufficient, there is a need to make a clear decision whether the applicant should be afforded a further opportunity to address that matter and incur further costs.

‘It is considered that the application does not adequately address the impact on koalas, and there is a low level of confidence that adequate information can be provided within a reasonable timeframe.

‘In these circumstances, it is considered the application should be refused at the present time.

‘If the applicant wishes to pursue the proposal, then they can undertake the necessary studies and work required, outside of the assessment process and re-lodge the application at a later date.’

The council meets at 6pm tonight to decide on the matter.


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