A group opposing the further development of sand mines in Lennox Head is accusing the developer of one of the mines of threatening to make extinct a colony of endangered frogs if its application to substantially expand its mine is not approved.
McGrearys Quarries has a development application before Ballina Shire Council that would see up to 1.9 million tonnes of sand excavated over a 30-year period.
The environmental impact statement (EIS) for the McGearys Quarry proposal states that, if the new quarry is not approved, rehabilitation works under the existing rehabilitation plan or plan of management approved in 1995 will be completed but result in the extinction of threatened frog species and loss of high conservation value vegetation.
Under the terms of the rehab plan, the applicant would be required to fill the existing pond at the quarry, where the endangered frogs have taken up residence ‘back to farm land’, according to the applicant’s planner Steve Connelly of Planners North, effectively making the frogs homeless.
Mr Connelly told Echonetdaily it was ‘really very perverse for objectors to the McGearys Quarry proposal to say that the EIS “threatens to make two frogs extinct if their new sand mine is refused”.’
‘The EIS is a document that sets out facts,’ he said.
‘Fact 1: We have found threatened frog species on the site. They live in the shallows near excavations.
‘Fact 2: The current DA approval requires rehabilitation of the site back to farm land.
‘Fact 3. With an expanded quarry, the extent of shallows will increase and we anticipate that the threatened frog species population will increase
‘There is no threat, real or implicit, in any of the EIS facts,’ Mr Connelly said.
Clearly a threat
But No Sand Mine for Lennox spokesperson Amelia Hicks says the claim contained within the EIS ‘is very clearly a threat’ and in the way it is written it certainly appears one is at least implied.
Clause 6.1 on page 66 of the Environmental Impact Statement states, ‘In the event that this application is refused then the prescribed rehabilitation works will be completed. Such works will result in the total loss in biodiversity at the site and cause the local extinction of the vulnerable wallum froglet and the wallum sedge frog as well as significant loss of high conservation value vegetation.’
But Ms Hicks told Echonetdaily she was sure there would be room to move on the rehabilitation plan in the event that the DA was refused.
‘The rehab plan was written 25 years ago. It is not to be slavishly followed if it will cause a local extinction. An application to amend the rehab plan would be welcomed by the council and the community,’ she said.
The site has been mined by McGearys since 1995 but the company’s existing DA has expired.
The new DA is currently on exhibition and open for public comment until January 29.