Since the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) made the decision last week to approve the Bentley Quarry, local farmers and families opposed to the project have not taken the news well.
Though the Panel’s official paperwork has not been released, the quarry is set to go ahead.
Wendy Harris lives just two kilometres from the quarry. Her two boys are the sixth generation to live on their family farm and as the president of Bentley Community Preschool, Vice President of the Bentley Hall, and as a mother, she is disappointed and angered.
‘I have a child attending the preschool and another who catches the bus daily to and from school in Lismore from Fernside lane with five other children.
‘I am absolutely dumbfounded how we are here again.
‘The applicants have had ample opportunity to gather their information and correct their application. This has already been heard by the JRPP. They have proven time and time again to not adequately meet standards and regulations required for a “regionally significant” quarry. They have now been afforded yet another opportunity.’
Refusal to operate around school hours
Ms Harris said she is very angry about the quarry’s refusal to operate around school hours on such busy, already deteriorated roads. ‘I am dismayed by the lack of concern given to our schools, Manifold Public located on the corner of Bentley and Manifold Roads and Casino Christian School located on Manifold Road, which has become an arterial road to Casino while Naughtons Gap Road is closed.’
Ms Harris said there are three door-to-door bus services travelling from Geneva, Kyogle, Bentley to Lismore, as well as the buses from Casino Christian School and Casino Bus Services.
‘Minimising haulage as stated in point 10 of the Driver Code of Conduct in the TMP during peak school times which also happen to be peak travel times for the general work force, cannot change the fact there will still be heavily loaded truck and dogs driving on such busy roads. And hasn’t been adequately addressed with their two sentences and six points in their Driver Code of Conduct.’
Appalled by apathy
‘I am appalled by the apathy towards our children who are picked up and dropped off along the proposed truck routes.
‘Point 10 of the Driver Code of Conduct implies the drivers will follow the road rules, well, history tells a different story! I can assure you there are many that do not. I have been in the position where a Holmes Extractive Resources heavy vehicle, driving for the Bentley quarry nearly barged through cattle on the road.
‘Holmes trucks were consistently passing with one every seven minutes showing no concern for the dead and injured livestock or the farmers on the road trying to move the cattle, despite ample opportunity and requests from farmers waving to slow down. This is while RVC correspondence states the quarry’s extraction limit is only two trucks per week.’
Applicants just ticking a box
Ms Harris said the DA should have been be refused as it is not in the public interest and it does not address the key issues in a satisfactory manner. She also said it does not comply with the EP&A ACT by addressing all unacceptable impacts. ‘The applicants are just simply ticking a box to get their application through without genuine care for the community. This quarry is not wanted nor needed here in the beautiful, peaceful Bentley valley.’
Ms Harris said she was very disappointed in the Panel’s decision although she was not surprised. ‘It has seemed as though this DA has been getting pushed through regardless of it being non-compliant. Their main condition seemed to have been around a strengthened driver code of conduct where all complaints are to be dealt with in-house by the quarry owner – rather than addressing the plethora of flaws and non-compliance issues in the DA as a whole.’
Ms Harris wants to know what will it take for it to be understood that the roads are not suitable for an extra 140 truck and dogs? ‘My concerns are grave for the dozens of children catching the buses, where there are already no safe pull-off lanes.
Concerns for the safety of preschool families
‘There’s been no mention of the preschool. I have concerns for the safety of our preschool families – parents dropping their kids off and picking them up during those school zone times. The parking for the preschool is right next to the road and is already dangerous pulling off to turn right let alone with trucks bearing down on you. How are the trucks expected to slow down in time or pass safely when traveling at 100km? And the driver code of conduct I feel is just a piece of insignificant paper – how will this piece of paper keep our children safe for the trucks roaring up and down the roads?
‘One man’s greed’
Ms Harris said she can’t believe the Panel has put ‘one man’s greed’ over the future and prosperity of agritourism in the area. ‘I cannot comprehend why these people have moved to Bentley and decided to implement one the largest extractive industry developments in the Northern Rivers, knowing the history of the significant Bentley Blockade and the CSG movement.
‘There has not been any material taken off-site for decades from what was just a small farm pit for over 50 years. My partner’s family owned that land until the early 2000s when it was sold to Barry Wilkinson, who also never moved a barrow load of anything from the site.
‘Under the Act abandonment is a mere 12 months! The quarry owners saying that it was a commercial operation since the 1950s is just lies. I’m in disbelief they were allowed to start operating under “continued use” based on a one-paragraph letter of lies from McKenzie emailed to RVC back in 2018!’
The Echo has contacted the quarry owners but at the time of publication, we have not had a response.