The Lismore City Council last night deferred making a decision on whether blasting could go ahead at a quarry heavily populated by koalas.
Councillors were set to make a decision at last night’s meeting, with staff recommending that the application be refused.
Operators of McDonalds Quarry at Flood Reserve Road, Ruthven, had 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.
They want approval to carry out up to five blasts a year, but council staff recommended against issuing the approval because the applicants had been unable to provide information on the potential impacts of koalas.
But last minute information lodged by the applicants prompted councillors last night to support a motion from Cr Mathew Schebel to defer the decision until a workshop was held to consider the new material.
The council’s development and compliance manager Peter Jeuken emailed councillors just prior to the meeting saying the applicants had advised that a revised “Assessment of Impacts of Quarry Blasting on Koalas” had been prepared by JWA Pty Ltd dated 13 July 2015.
Mr Jeuken said that while the applicants were still to provide information on a number of areas of concern, the revised report formed ‘a clear conclusion that the proposal will not result in any significant impacts upon koalas’ if recommendations were followed.
An added recommendation would be: ‘Post blast koala monitoring should be reported in an annual report to council and OEH (Office of Environment and Heritage) after the first 12 months of blasting.
‘Data collected during the monitoring survey should include age class, reproductive status, health status, tree species sighted in, and location by GPS. ‘There should be an interpretation of results and a report should be completed by a suitably qualified and experienced ecologist.’
Mr Jeuken said it was unlikely further studies would provide any evidence not before councillors, and he said ‘A decision to defer the application and request further information is unlikely to be of any material benefit given discussions with the applicant’.
Nevertheless, after protracted debate, councillors did vote to defer their decision so that the information provided in the enhanced report from JWA Pty Ltd could be considered.
The workshop is expected to be held ‘as soon as possible’, and a report will go back to the council before any further decisions are made.