The people of Bentley don’t take things lying down and yesterday members of the Beyond Bentley group arrived on the doorstep of the Richmond Valley Council offices to deliver a 351-page mega submission opposing a ‘mega quarry’.
The submission was prepared by the community group Beyond Bentley – Our Sustainable Future Inc and included input and contributions from group members.
In a multi-pronged approach, Beyond Bentley hopes that Council will carefully consider their submissions.
Late last year the group also commenced proceedings in the NSW Land and Environment Court and the first directions hearing is set for February 11 – where they hope they will be given a date for the hearing to stop the Bentley Quarry from operating on the basis that they believe it is operating unlawfully.
Reasons for opposing the quarry
The submission gives several reasons for opposing the quarry including that – the approval of this development is not a good planning outcome for the region; The location of the proposed quarry on such a busy and dangerous main road link between Lismore and Kyogle is totally unsuitable, and; the existing operation has been shown to be non-compliant and is involved in legal proceedings to examine its legitimacy.
The group feel that the quarry is a threat to the area as Regionally Significant Farmland, which neighbouring property owners have been developing for over 10 years as sustainable and regenerative agriculture, together with associated low-impact tourist development, including farm tourism and accommodation. They say this will enhance the Casino to Bentley leg of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, which is a Federal Government funded project and identified by Richmond Valley Council as ‘a critical signature project’.
The submission says that the site location is not recognised as a regionally significant resource (extractive industries) and the land-use conflict is unacceptable to the local community.
They also say the development application is full of inaccuracies, omissions, unverified and speculative statements and this demonstrates a poor level of assessment.
They say the local community will not accept industrialisation, together with all of its associated negative impacts on the beautiful Bentley Valley.
A joint effort
Chairperson of Beyond Bentley, Charles Wilkinson, said the submission represents the efforts of more than 40 local people. ‘Over 40 local people who said “no” to an invasive, destructive, obscene and ill-conceived plan, by a person trying to build an empire at our expense.’
Rosemary Joseph said she was at Casino to join with her fellow community members to show a united ‘Bentley front’ to the RVC. Mrs Joseph says the submission is very comprehensive. ‘We are determined to save our valley from this extractive and destructive industry and the fact that we have so many members in our group who are determined to work so hard is a testament to our love for where we live.
Development in harmony with the natural environment
‘We are not opposed to development in our valley but we believe that it should be in harmony with the natural environment and already existing and long-standing rural and agricultural livelihoods and way of life within our valley.
‘The proposed massive quarry will totally dominate the area. It will be a case of one industry swamping all others, which is in absolute conflict with every other land use in the valley.’
Though the proposed quarry is in the Richmond Valley Council area, one property straddles the RVC and the Lismore and trucks leaving the quarry only have to travel a few kilometres east before they are on Lismore roads.
Lismore resident Ros Irwin said one of the many reasons she opposes the quarry is the devastating impact of the quarry on Lismore’s section of the Lismore to Kyogle Road. ‘It’s a far longer stretch than that of Richmond Valley Council. Lismore Council wouldn’t receive any funding. Also, one resident is in Lismore LGA whose property is in Bentley. Their futures and current activities would be destroyed.’
Six generations at Bentley
Fifth-generation Bentley resident Craig Armstrong says he is worried about the impact on future generations. ’My boys are sixth generational Armstrongs on the family farm here that was settled around 160 years ago.
’We thought we could rest on our laurels after the historic Bentley Blockade and subsequent PEL buyback. However, another socially and environmentally unethical business has come to this very place to try to force a massive extractive industry onto my family, it’s land and our close-knit, stoic community.
‘We, of course, have collectively formed to take this injustice head-on as we did during the well-won CSG battle. It beggars belief that a business could come to this historically and culturally significant land, after the Bentley Blockade, and attempt to impose such a thing on this still pristine land and its exceptional people.’
The quarry a contradiction RVC policy
Rosemary Joseph said Richmond Valley Council contradicts its own policy if it accepts an EIS that is incomplete and full of holes.
‘Richmond Valley Council has identified a lack of agri-tourism opportunities in the LGA and there are plans before the Council for this type of enterprise in our valley just opposite the proposed quarry – in fact, Blue Fattoria already has a successfully operating farm stay business and plans to restore the old homestead and to establish glamping cabins on the site of Camp Liberty.
‘How can RVC reconcile these aims to encourage tourism in the LGA with the approval of a huge quarry? It is in total conflict with their stated aims in four of their planning documents, especially Destination North Coast.’
RVC identifies the Casino to Bentley Rail Trail section as a critical catalyst to the economic growth of Casino and yet it will be on about 1.5km from the quarry – the Bentley Precinct (end of the trail) will have camping, picnic facilities, a playground etc. The quarry will have noise, trucks and blasting etc. That’s a real conflict.’
Charles Wilkinson said the plan is seemingly supported by a local authority who thinks that it is okay to make deals even before a development application is approved! ‘This is an authority who thinks it is okay to walk over the locals to fulfil its own agenda. What is their agenda? Is it about money or is it about payback because the people of Bentley refused to roll over like dogs and let Metgasco do as they please in this valley?
‘Who knows, but I do know that this does not pass the “sniff test” and it certainly is not justified as the EIS tries to make out.’