A quarry outside Lismore has been given permission to carry out blasting despite the area having a high concentration of koalas.
The Lismore City Council this week issued the approval, with councillors voting 10/1 in overwhelming support.
Greens councillor Vanessa Ekins was the sole dissenting vote.
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said some concerns were raised about following through with the conditions that the koalas be monitored during any blasting activities.
As part of the approval, the operators of McDonalds Quarry at Flood Reserve Road, Ruthven, have given undertakings to follow recommendations from koala expert, Dr Sean FitzGibbon of the Koala Ecology Group at Queensland University.
Dr FitzGibbon was engaged by the council after councillors earlier deferred the application because of a lack of information on the potential impacts on the koalas.
He ‘strongly recommended’ that a monitoring program be established to provide baseline information on the distribution, abundance and health of koalas at the site (prior to any blasting).
‘This information will allow a proper assessment of the likely impact of blasting upon the local koala population,’ he said.
‘Further, if blasting is to occur on the site then I would also recommend that the monitoring program assesses the response of a sub-set of the koala population to the impact of a typical blast (provided it is safe to do so).
‘The proposed blasting may not have a significantly negative impact upon the local koala population, but this can only be properly assessed through a scientific monitoring program.’
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 applicants will now be allowed to carry out five blasts each year.