Community group, Beyond Bentley – Our Sustainable Future Incorporated has commenced proceedings in the NSW Land and Environment Court to stop the Bentley Quarry from operating on the basis that it is operating unlawfully.
Beyond Bentley is an organisation made up of Bentley locals and members of the broader community who want to see the Bentley environment protected from industrial-scale development.
The group say the Quarry is operating illegally and is now trying to expand the unlawful operations into a ‘mega’ quarry.
Astounded when operators fired up an old quarry
Bentley landowner Rosemary Joseph says the group were astounded when the quarry operators bought the land and fired up an old quarry that hadn’t operated since the 1970s.
‘We told Richmond Valley Council about it but they said the quarry operator insisted there was always a quarry on the land and it had continuing use rights to take around 2000 – 3000 cubic metres of materials per year.
‘We were absolutely stunned because it is just not true. There was once a small borrow pit on the land that was used for roadworks in the 1970s. There were no further quarrying activities on the land until the new owner purchased it in 2016.’
Bentley locals who have lived in the locale for decades will testify in the Land and Environment Court that any use of the land for a quarry was abandoned decades ago.
Enormous effort to resolve the matter before going to court
Former Lismore Mayor and member of Beyond Bentley, Dr Ros Irwin says the organisation has not taken the court action lightly. ‘The community made an enormous effort to resolve the matter before going to court,’ she said. ‘We also provided the quarry operator and Richmond Valley Council with the legal advice we obtained from our Senior Counsel in the Land and Environment Court advising us that we had a very strong case.
‘As a consequence, we asked the operator to voluntarily cease the operations, but to no avail. Our planning laws need to be upheld, and without cooperation from Richmond Valley Council or the operator of the quarry, our small community group has been forced to turn to the Land and Environment Court.
‘Imagine if everyone who had ever had a quarry on their land started up quarrying operations and all of the destructive activities associated with that development, without going through the proper planning process, which provides the opportunity to the community to have appropriate input,’ said Dr Irwin.
Things have gotten out of control
Ms Joseph said things have gotten out of control at the Bentley Quarry. ‘We were told they were only going to extract up to 3,000 cubic metres a year which would involve around two truck movements per week.
‘Now the Quarry is extracting way more than that and on some days we are seeing 30 or more truck movements per day on our rural road network. It’s really out of control and it is not lawful.
‘Now the quarry is trying to use its unauthorised quarry activities to get approval for a “mega” quarry expansion which will extract 300,000 tonnes each year for 30 years, complete with blasting and 100 truck movements per day on the already dangerous Lismore to Kyogle Road. Then in 30 years, a permanently disfigured landscape will be left behind. It’s just not on.’
Bentley is a special place
The group feel that Bentley is a special place for many across the Northern Rivers and NSW. The quarry site sits directly opposite the site of the famous Bentley Blockade where the Northern Rivers community united to stop the CSG and fracking industry from becoming established.
Ms Joseph says the community has long-standing plans to develop sustainable, environmentally friendly projects to complement the existing rural land uses and promote a substantial increase in tourism to the valley. ‘But just like the fight against CSG, once again the community will be the losers and will suffer greatly if this proposed huge, noisy and ugly extractive industry is allowed to go ahead.
‘Once again the local community has to fight for its survival.’