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Byron Shire
October 24, 2021

Quarry owners say they are listening to the locals

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According to Rob and Sarah McKenzie, owners of the Bentley Quarry, the impacts of the proposed expansion of the site will be fully managed.

‘We’re listening’ is the message from the couple, who plan to expand the quarry at 1465 Bentley Road.

In a release sent to The Echo, the McKenzies say a Development Application (DA) for the expansion of their basalt quarry to produce up to 300,000 tonnes per annum will be exhibited by council in the coming months.

Hearing the concerns of the locals

‘We live here’, says Mr McKenzie. ‘We are hearing community concerns and want to assure everyone we have no intention of impacting anyone with our plans.’

Mr McKenzie says local residents from the Beyond Bentley group have shared their concerns, along with the desire to establish the area as an example of regenerative agriculture. He said the quarry will be designed to allow the co-existence of both kinds of land use.  ‘Bentley Quarry wants to contribute to this vision, not impact it.’

Mr McKenzie says the quarry will help meet the demand for gravel for farm roads, the proposed rail trail, and for the repair and maintenance of council roads. He said while it’s not a large proposal compared to others in the district, it will generate several jobs, and that brings some economic growth to the region.

‘We need to make a living, but we remain a small, local, family-run business. We want to thank the Beyond Bentley group for their frank and honest feedback at this early stage,’ he said.

Information from the Mackenzies, including a fact sheet, says that continuing use rights for the quarry in its current form were confirmed by Richmond Valley Council in February 2018.

No attempt to consult local landholders

Bentley farmer Colin Thomas says the quarry was opened up in 2018 without any attempt to contact or consult local landholders. ‘This left us with a fait accompli.’

Mr Thomas says that enquiries by residents to Richmond Valley Council at the time were met with assurances regarding extraction limits, truck movements, road design and critically, criteria for council approval.

‘Blind Freddy can see that extraction limits have been grossly exceeded,’ he said. ‘There has been tremendous damage to Bentley Road.’

Mr Thomas says the group’s research on the ‘continuing use’ criteria that formed the basis of approval by RVC leads him to question that approval. ‘And now they want us to accept assurances around a grossly expanded operation?’

Bentley Quarry fact sheet

The fact sheet put out by the McKenzies says that the basalt deposit that is now called Bentley Quarry was first used some 30 to 40 years ago as a ‘borrow pit’ to help build Bentley Road. It says the weathered basalt is easily compacted, making the material good for driveways and house and shed pads. Quite a few of the driveways around Bentley and beyond have been constructed with basalt from this site.

Owners Rob and Sarah moved to Bentley about four years ago to raise a family. Since arriving, they have improved the property and council have confirmed that the quarry had existing use rights. They saw it as a drought-proof business that ironically helps farmers most when the rain is heavy, and farm roads need repair.

After settling in and getting the hang of the business, they are now looking to capitalise on the asset on-site, the deposit of weathered basalt. The fact sheet speaks to the size, saying that it is not a ‘mega quarry’.

‘Mega is the international term for a million, so that’s a little misleading,’ say the McKenzies. ‘Our proposal is to produce a maximum of 300,000 tonnes per annum (tpa). To put that into perspective, the quarry at Blakebrook is approved for 600,000 tpa, and the quarry at Coraki has an approved capacity of 1,000,000 tpa.’

Answering the question of noise, the information given by the McKenzies says that extracting and crushing rock is historically a noisy activity, but modern crushing machines with enclosed crushers can reduce the noise considerably.

‘The EIS will model the noise levels including the noise attenuation to show what the noise levels would be like,’ they said. ‘All the activities on-site are required to meet government regulations, otherwise, the proposal won’t be approved.’

Blasting and dust

The McKenzies say that blasting will not be part of the day-to-day operation of the quarry. ‘Occasionally, maybe once per month, a single blast will be required to shift a large slab so that it can be broken down into smaller rocks. Blasts are heavily regulated and have to be done by someone who is licenced by SafeWork NSW.’

The fact sheet also says there shouldn’t be a lot of dust and what there is will be managed using water sprays with organic additives, to ensure that dust doesn’t leave the site.

In answer to questions about the visual impacts, the McKenzies says they love the area as much as locals do, and that they’ll be screening the entire operation with vegetated raised bunds.

‘It will be more bushy when operating than it is today. You’ll be able to see the quarry from the air, but not from the road, or neighbouring properties,’ they said. ‘The bunds will also play a part in reducing noise from loading and other quarrying activities. We live on the same block as the quarry, so it’s in our interest to ensure that these impacts are managed well.’

Mr McKenzie says a Development Application (DA) for the proposal is currently being prepared, along with an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). ‘The assessments required for the EIS are currently based on a proposed maximum of 300,000 tonnes per year and 100 trucks per day, which would rarely, if ever, occur.’

Assuring the community

Mr McKenzie says he wants to assure the community, that if any of the assessments indicate this would cause an unacceptable impact, the size of the proposed operation would be reduced or mitigation measures would be implemented to address the impact. ‘This includes screening of the site to maintain the visual amenity of the area, noise mitigation by enclosing noisy equipment and/or the construction of vegetated earthen mounds, and dust controls.’

Project approval would require the quarry to pay contributions to council for the maintenance of Bentley Road, and the entrance to the business would also have to be upgraded.

If approved at this production capacity the maximum would be 100 trucks per day. Mr McKenzie says this however this would be rare. ‘Actually, highly unlikely. If would depend on customers purchasing material, so on some days there would be none, on other days 40.’

The DA/EIS are expected to be placed on display in September this year by council for public feedback. Mr McKenzie says all input from the community will be taken on board and responded to in a submissions report, before the proposal is determined.

Size doesn’t matter

Colin Thomas says it is irrelevant whether or not the expanded Bentley Quarry will be smaller than others in the region. ‘The proposal states that it will cover an area of 5 ha (12.5 acres) and it will be 30 metres deep. This adds up to a huge quarry, especially in the context of the surrounding rural land use in the small Bentley valley.

‘Many in the local community wish to establish this area as an example of sustainable and regenerative agriculture – how can a massive rock quarry possibly co-exist with this vision – it can hardly operate as an “organic” quarry!’


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12 COMMENTS

  1. For a start I think the quarry owner should get his facts correct! He DID NOT consult the previous owners of the land and he did not provide accurate information to the council when he applied for “continuing use” rights! He seems to have a misunderstanding of the difference between “existing use” and “continuing use” rights! If he likes we can educate him! He is proposing a quarry some 60-70 times bigger than what is presently operating and he thinks the locals will be deceived by the comments above. Frankly his comments above made me feel nauseous, with the absolute sugar coating of what is a major blight on our landscape and, in fact, he is robbing the local community of the opportunities arising from existing and proposed agri-tourism developments. Local development has already started in this area and there are enormous opportunities for landowners to take advantage of! This bloke wants to put a great big quarry in the middle of it!! We asked his consultant to tell us what were the benefits for the local community. He admitted there was nothing! NOTHING!! In fact, it threatens local jobs! Jobs that are happening right now. Do we need the gravel? Why would we need the “rotten rock”, which is what we call weathered basalt, when nearly every property in the valley has their own little rock pit? Community matters and our community says, “NO, don’t try and deceive us with your sugar coating. We’re not that stupid! We stood strong 2014 against the might of Metgasco and once again, we are standing strong. ” COMMUNITY MATTERS AND WE ARE THE COMMUNITY OF BENTLEY! We will not stand aside and let you ROB us of our future.
    Charles Wilkinson
    Bentley resident

    • Well said, Charles. Community definitely matters and being part of that community is vital. It is so sad that one or two people can come to live in an area that has a long-established history of peaceful rural activities and attempt to change its very nature by ‘SWAMPING’ everyone else’s family-owned and family-run businesses with their own. This dirty extractive industry is simply not in keeping with the current land uses – it is in TOTAL CONFLICT. The legacy for Bentley will be an ever-expanding and deepening hole in the ground – akin to an open-cut coal mine. The land will be gone FOREVER!

  2. Robert McKenzie says the term ‘mega’ is very misleading as it is actually the international term for ‘million’. I have to disagree, Robert McKenzie – the context in which we use the word it is definitely not misleading! The MacQuarie Dictionary defines the adjective ‘mega’ as ‘BIG, LARGE or EXTREME’ – the MEGA quarry that you propose for Bentley is all of those things – 5 ha (12.5 acres) and 30 metres deep with blasting once per month !

    It is in total and absolute conflict with the surrounding rural land use in our small and peaceful Bentley valley.

    You and your family made the choice to move to Bentley 4 years ago, start a quarry and live right near it – it was YOUR choice! Local Bentley people, most of whom have lived here for many decades (indeed some are now sixth generations on this land), had no choice – no say in it all. In 2018, the sign “Bentley Quarry” simply appeared one day on your gate and no-one had any chance to comment. As Mr Thomas says, it was a “fait accompli”! And now you want to expand it – to become a MEGA quarry?

  3. My family has lived and farmed this area for around 150 years and my children are the 6th generation here.
    We have farmed beef cattle, small crops, broad acre crops, aquaculture and Horticulture.
    Our family also owned the property Rob Mackenzie recently purchased until around 20 years ago.

    Fact sheet

    • Rob Mackenzie only came to this area very recently. With the intention of changing it forever for everyone who has been here longer.

    •He took gravel from the “quarry” spot to build his own driveway around 2018.

    • He and his family have little knowledge of the area, and have never spoken to us, or the Wilkinson’s who bought it from us, about the history or culture of the area.

    • The now “quarry” hadn’t been used for almost 50 years. My great uncle Alexander Jack Armstrong( who owned much of what is now my property) last used gravel from that area in 1971 when the Bentley road was sealed. Very little gravel had come out of that area – most of it came from the large gravel pit on the opposite side of the road where Metgasco tried to drill for CSG during the “Bentley Blockade”.

    •In my life time the area where the “quarry” is has only ever been used as an airstrip and for grazing. Crop dusters where reloaded there with herbicides and pesticides to service broad acre crops on our farm (“Disputed Plain) and others around the district. Crop dusters used the airstrip from the early 80’s until into the 2000’s.

    •The Mackenzie family has not looked at agriculture as there primary source of income from their land as all others do here. They have sought the industrialisation of our rural/residential area after purchase.

    •My grandfather had a legitimate council supplying quarry at Leyster near by. He discontinued his license in the early 90’s as it was not the best thing for the community.

    •The Mackenzie business did not notify us about their intent to get a “continued use” quarry through council without a DA. They somehow wrongly achieved that, as this “quarry” did not qualify for this privilege to be granted.

    •After somehow being granted continued use licensing the quarry management has significantly and blatantly exceeded the extraction and amount of truck movements (3000 cube p.a. at 2 trucks per week) of their license. This has been very visible to residents and even admitted in the expansion proposal.

    •This over use has been detrimental and dangerous to Naughtons gap and Bentley roads. There are also children’s schools and door to door bus services on these roads.

    • GHD (the Coffs Harbour firm Mackenzie has employed as a consultant) only notified one neighbour with a large agri tourism business next to their property. The rest of the community was notified by that one owner.

    •GHD was to meet with this one owner, but was forced to meet with a large section of the established community who told the consultant that the quarry is not, and has never been, acceptable to the area and it’s people.

    •12.5 acres and 30m into our ground is a very, very large development for a place that was only cattle pasture. Residents are staggered it could grow to be half the size of Blakebrook quarry in just the next move.

    •The quarry is unnecessary with so many large quarries around already supplying the area. These quarries do and can employ all personnel needed to supply gravels to the area for many, many decades to come. Whilst, on farm, most commercially viable farms in the area have there own gravel pits to service their agribusiness.

    •The area and it’s threatened species eg. Koalas, Bettongs, Pretty faced Wallabies, platypus, weg-tailed eagles etc do not need ”blasting” of any kind, ever.

    •This industrialisation of our rural/residential (RU1) zoned land will be devastating of all of the people’s land and asset values apart from the Rob Mackenzie family business. Along with the lifestyle we enjoy being taken away.

    •Why should we all have to loose what we’ve always had like the threatened species?

    Yours faithfully

    Geoffrey Desmond Armstrong

    Craig John Armstrong

    “Disputed Plain”

  4. There are plenty of people in the area who have lived here for years without abusing and pillaging the landscape…

    They stated the impacts of the site will be fully managed but we’re still going to have a gaping hole in prime agricultural land…

    There is a MEGA difference between hearing the communities concerns and actually listening to the communities concerns… They didn’t even attend the community consultation…

    You mention that it’s not a large proposal compared to others in the district, well we don’t actually have any other commercial quarries in Bentley district and we don’t want this to be a district for extractive industries…

    As for the blasting you state “occasionally” and “maybe” that seems really vague for a “fact sheet” doesn’t it?

    You have a dirt road in and out of the quarry… This alone sends dust pollution to surrounding properties with the excessive trucks running it currently.

    You compare it to a 600,000 tpa and a 1,000,000 tpa quarry yet yours is currently meant to be 3000 tpa (yet currently 6000tpa by your own admission) and it’s already an unacceptable impact on surrounding community…

    As for the frank honesty to Bentley quarry, I wish we had the same in return from the start. Your integrity is as foul as this expansion.

  5. 100 trucks a day. If this expansion goes ahead, the procession of gravel trucks on Bentley Road will look like an iron ore train.

  6. The Kyogle/Bentley road out of Lismore is dangerous at the best of times. When I drive out that way I am always fearful about what state the road will be in. To increase traffic upon that degraded surface by adding 100 heavy trucks every day would be pure insanity!

  7. The Kyogle/Bentley Road out of Lismore is already dangerous for locals to drive upon. Every time I drive out that way I am nervous about what the state of repair will be and have seen many vehicles veer to miss potholes. To add 100 heavy trucks EVERY DAY into this mix is pure insanity. There will be carnage on that road. This expansion simply CANNOT go ahead.

  8. Having many personal connections in the Bentley area, an historical attachment to it as a consequence of the Bentley Blockade 7 years ago, a long standing love affair with the country and a huge admiration for those who farm organically and regeneratively, I am one Lismore resident who definitely does not wish to see this part of paradise spoiled with a large quarry. And I shudder to think how the truck movements would impact on the already poor state of the road! The idea of expanding quarry operations here is incompatible with the Bentley we know and love. Please don’t do this to us!

  9. My family are local farmers with a connection to the area going back 120 years, but I would never feel I had the right to effect the others in this way. The desire by any landholder to seek to pursue a develop that would have such a devastating effect on neighbours and the community is just not right. Everyone’s greatest concern needs to be the safety of our families. My whole family travels this road every day and now it is suggested that 200 more truck movement are focused onto this section of road that is already struggling to provide anything close to a safe driving surface. Even if we could solve the road issues it is simply bad news for the local area to put a quarry in such a visible location. This development would devalue the assets of all local farmers and family businesses, just at a time when tourism has become such an important part of our communities future. In the past, tourists on wheels drove through the Bentley area every weekend but now I notice their welcome presence every day (groups of bike riders, car enthusiasts), all looking for a place to spend their money at a local business. They come for the rural vista in a safe location. If this section of road becomes an eye saw or over run with trucks these visitors will soon find different places to visit. The townships of Casino and Kyogle need the tourism industry to grow if they are to maintain a healthy economy. Developments that don’t fit with the strategic plan for a location might financially benefit a few but steal prosperity from every other local. I hope the Kyogle Council finds it voice in this matter and highlights the true needs of our area to other councils. The region needs to see the need to work together with maintaining the environmental assets that will provide income to our families for generations to come, TOURISM.

  10. This is an often seen scenario of people moving into an area because of the lifestyle and beauty they see in it, then go about making changes that destroy the very things that attracted them in the first place. This expansion is a bad idea on many levels, destruction of the local environment, interfering with the rights of others in the community to peacefully enjoy their properties, noise pollution, dust pollution, not to mention the addition of up to 100 big trucks travelling back and forth on Bently Road daily and the damage they will do, and the danger this will create to other road users. Bentley Road was not built for these heavy vehicles. I am local to this are and travel on this road almost daily. The local community does not want this.

  11. Dear Robbie & Sarah,

    I am VERY CONCERNED that you can’t ‘HEAR’ us over the NOISE of your industrial equipment!

    As a direct neighbour, you haven’t asked me whether your industrial operation has impacted on me already, let alone when ….. ‘YOU EXPAND BY 100 FOLD!!!’

    • My 87 year old mother is now too SCARED to drive to Lismore along our ‘quiet’ Bentley Road! She trembles as the numerous quarry trucks rumble along imposingly, dwarfing her little car, as she tries to not disappear into a pothole! Trucks have led to disintegration of the road. It’s only a matter of time before my children have to attend another road fatality in their roles with emergency services. …..& YOU WANT TO EXPAND BY 100 FOLD!!

    • Your existing industrialised operation has significantly impacted me through summer when you operated into the evenings to avoid the heat …..the incessant deep grumbling noise & vibration of your extraction machinery disturbs the psyche immeasurably! …..& YOU WANT TO EXPAND BY 100 FOLD, as well as CRUSH & BLAST!!

    • Your proposal will sterilise land use options in the Bentley valley! There goes tourism, there goes a food trail, there goes retirees’ life works….. Did you talk to your neighbour whose property sale has recently coincidently fallen over since the mention of…..’& YOU WANT TO EXPAND BY 100 FOLD!!’

    So yes, the impacts of this surprise ‘pop-up instant mine’ have already been overwhelmingly palpable. What a patronising & deceptive piece of dribble..…..& YOU WANT TO EXPAND BY 100 FOLD!!

    Try taking off your earmuffs!

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