By Darren Coyne
Lismore City Council will decide next week whether blasting can go ahead at a quarry heavily populated by koalas.
Councillors were set to make a decision at last month’s meeting, with staff recommending that the application be refused.
But the operators of McDonalds Quarry at Flood Reserve Road, Ruthven, provided last minute information that prompted councillors to defer the matter and hold a workshop to examine the new information.
The council also engaged Dr Sean FitzGibbon of the Koala Ecology Group at Queensland University to undertake a peer review, and he briefed councillors via video link at the workshop on 21 July.
Dr Fitzgibbon told councillors there was insufficient evidence to determine whether blasting would impact on koalas.
However, 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.’
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.
Nearby residents have lodged objections to the blasting, raising concerns about the impact of blasting on the koala population, as well as the possibility of damage to their homes and a dam on the quarry site.
Councillors will make their decision at next Tuesday’s meeting.