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Byron Shire
February 9, 2023

Fears quarry will endanger lives at Bentley Community Preschool

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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.

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  1. ironically, to fix the roads we need local quarries like this one, not sure where people think the material comes from to build and maintain the roads…

    • might add to that, when you say ‘one man’s greed’, do you have any idea what is involved in operating a quarry? its very heavily regulated under the EPA and it involves a huge amount of work and cost inputs, what is wrong with making some money from working hard ?

      • There are already large regionally significant quarries either end of Kyogle Road (LCC’s Blakebrook and the Cedar point quarry in Kyogle Council. RVC said there are 50 just in their local government area (eg Piora). Ironically, this quarry has refused to come to an agreement to contribute anything to LCC roads even though it will take up to 60% of the increased heavy vehicle load on an already dangerous, run down, underfunded, road. Even after being asked to by the NRPP (they were asked to work truck movements around peak school times by the NRPP also).
        Do you know this quarry has avoided EPA oversight so far by operating under a questionable continued use license of 3000cubic meters per year extraction. Said to be equivalent to “two trucks per week” by RVC. While the “Beyond Bentley” community group recorded up to 91 truck movements in a day. I think EPA only polices extraction over 30 000 tons. Will be interesting to see what happens now they’ve gone to 300 000 tons virtually overnight.
        What’s wrong with the agri-tourism business making money from working hard in the same place. This agri tourism business was already approved, has already spent millions and would employ dozens more people with more input into the community. Why was it essentially ignored and sunk by one recent massive expansion of a questionable extractive industry? Even having approved developments within the now boast buffer zone. Hard to believe.

  2. Ms Harris (quote): ‘How are the trucks expected to slow down in time or pass safely when traveling at 100km?’
    The speed limit past both the school and pre-school has been 50Kph for many years.
    I am not aware of any recent accidents in this restricted speed zone or even in the past involving trucks here.
    Heavy truck-drivers are highly regulated and skilled.
    [Try and get an HGV licence and you will appreciate how difficult it is.]

    • “50kph for many years”? Where are you thinking of because you’re wrong about Bentley? Speed limit past Bentley preschool is 100km/hr. I went there when it was 100 and it still is now my kids attend there.
      140 extra heavy vehicle movements, with code of conduct enforced only be the quarry’s own management, is a significant and alarming development in the area. The community has been very entitled to comment on the issues around this massive expansion DA . [I have a Heavy Vehicle licence.]

      • Yes Craig, you are right about Bentley pre-school, it is outside the school 50kPH limit – but perhaps it should have one in future. As this is a RVC-controlled minor road perhaps lobbying to council roads committee over this could achieve this safeguard in future if the quarry is to go ahead?
        I wholly agree with you that this community [or any other] is perfectly entitled to protest, including any active or non-active HGV drivers amongst them.
        The Lismore-Kyogle back-road speed restrictions are regularly targeted by NSW Police patrols.
        It pays to note that when a rogue commercial HGV driver is caught speeding they will usually cop a higher fine than for ordinary motorists/riders. It is also possible for them to lose their primary source of income too.
        Pretty serious deterants – as you probably know well.

  3. Ultimately, this, like all issues with developments in the region, comes down to selfishness. The bulk of people just don’t want to share. They want to keep the region for themselves. Once any development is announced, they scamble to find reaaons to oppose it. Environmental impact? Traffic impact? What about the koalas? Isnt there a rare snail there? Wont somebody think of the children?!
    All just excuses from selfish people not willing to share what doesn’t belong to them.

  4. This region having attracted so many wonderful people over the last 50 years, we can’t be surprised that there are still a few really nasty ones too. The Echo gets its fair share.

    Hang in there Bentley. This issue might just be the straw that broke the greedy COALition’s back, March is coming …

    Either way, those who appreciate what was done to save this area from the horrors of Tara or Chinchilla by the good folks of Bentley need to be ready for a campaign to shut down this foul overdevelopment.

  5. {Quote}: ‘Either way, those who appreciate what was done to save this area from the horrors of Tara or Chinchilla by the good folks of Bentley need to be ready for a campaign to shut down this foul overdevelopment.’
    Q: Ian, is this a ‘non sequitur’ or are you referencing the recent police massacre in these areas to support your opinion – or is it a reference to something else happening there – perhaps similar quarrying approvals or ‘overdevelopment’?


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