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!’