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Byron Shire
July 14, 2024

Lismore Council – you can’t beat the six pack

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Last night’s Lismore Council meeting which, uncharacteristically, lasted a mere two-and-a-half hours, started with a pre-emptive comment from Mayor Steve Krieg, as the chamber prepared to debate one of the hottest issues this year, an application to modify a DA to extend the life of the quarry at Monaltrie.

‘I have been revising several things,’ said the Mayor, Cr Steve Krieg, ‘including the code of meeting practice. I think it’s important at this time – I know that some Council meetings can be a little bit more emotive than others and I accept that, but I want to bring you back to the key word that is through our code of meeting practice and that is respect. And even though we may have differences of opinions, that is life, and it’s important that everyone has the right to speak, and everyone has the right to be heard.’

Clearly, he knew what was coming.

A DA for the quarry at Monaltrie

A staff report was prepared on the development application that Council had approved on 12 May 1993 for extensions to an existing hard rock quarry, subject to conditions. In particular, the conditions limited the operation of the quarry to 25 years from the date of consent. 

The report to Council at its meeting of 6 April 1993 included submissions about the traffic impact on the road network and amenity. The matter was again considered by Council at its meeting on 20 April 1993 with additional information provided on noise attenuation measures. It was resolved to approve DA92/523 subject to conditions. 

Amendments were approved by Council in 1994, 1998, 2005 and 2006.

Correspondence from Council to Mr Santin (the current quarry owner) on 11 September 2013, advised of several outstanding incomplete conditions of development consent. 

Since then there have been a series of meetings, more applications to extend the life of the quarry, and in 2020 the matter went before Council with a revised recommendation for approval but with options for consent to be granted for approval of 5, 10 or the full 16 years. The application was refused by Council.

Land and Environmental Court

An appeal to the Land and Environmental Court was lodged on the refusal of this application. The applicant ultimately withdrew the appeal in 2021. 

Last night the site was again under scrutiny. 

There were five speakers during public access. All outlined salient reasons for blocking extension, including dust and noise, and the fact that most of the conditions from the past 30 years had not been, or not been fully, met.

The last speaker was Nora Highfield whose house is one of the closest to the quarry. Ms Highfield spoke against the proposed application.

‘We had only just purchased our house, in which time we were given limited to no information about the quarry by the real estate and the Council, despite our own inquiries, but I’m not going to backtrack and I’m not going to go over the application’s legalities – I know others have already thoroughly covered that tonight. 

‘Tonight I speak as an independent member of the community and everything I say is entirely my own opinion and does not represent any other body, community, or organisation,’ she said.

Councillors friends of the applicant

‘I’d like to state that in October last year, I had a private conversation with one of the Council members here who informed me, despite everybody tonight declaring non-pecuniary and non-significant knowledge of Mr Santin [the owner of the quarry], that he was a friend of Santin, and had dinner with him regularly. He informed me that several Council members were also friends with Mr Santin.

‘It seems to me a very obvious conflict of interest, furthermore, if Council’s own expert professional recommendation is to not approve the modification application for the Santin quarry, and then all these Council members who are mates allegedly of Mr Santin, which is fine, he’s seems like a good bloke, everyone’s entitled to friends, but if you’re allowed to vote, as if you’re not going to vote in favour of this modification application – you’re “allegedly” his mates,’ said Ms Highfield.

Reeking of nepotism and potential corruption

‘So to me this decision just seems like it’s reeking of an undertone of nepotism, potential corruption and the decision is too important to be made by a popularity contest of who has the most friends in high places.’

At this point, the chamber erupted and the gavel came down several times trying to regain order.

Ms Highfield continued: ‘We’re exhausted, we’re slogging away, saving lives as frontline emergency workers and we should be allowed to come home, to our home to relax in peace and quiet.’

Ms Highfield continued over Cr Big Rob who was interjecting but who couldn’t be heard because his microphone was turned off.

The whole world is watching, Lismore

‘Excuse me,’ said Ms Highfield. ‘Ever since the floods the whole world is watching how we rebuild this region.’

Cr Krieg reminded everyone in the chamber that respect is key here and that the gallery would be cleared if that wasn’t the case. ‘Excuse me, Miss Highfield. You will be asked to leave if there’s one more outburst. If you want to stay here just be quiet. If you do speak once more, I will ask you to leave.’

The next few minutes were full of points of order and references to the code of meeting practice before the mayor adjourned the meeting for five minutes for everyone to regroup.

A vote to change the order of business saw the matter brought forward. A motion, with subsequent Foreshadowed Motions, was debated.

The motion

The motion: that the application for modification of development consent DA92/523 to modify DA9/523 to extend the life of the quarry at 72 Riverbank Rd, Monaltrie, be approved for a maximum of 12 years subject to several conditions.

The challenge for some of the councillors was that the motion and the long list of conditions were only sent to them a couple of hours before the meeting, and they hadn’t had a chance to look at it.

Points made to ‘unhearing ears’

It was clear to the viewers before the debate began that this motion would be passed. Councillors Ekins, Guise and Bird all put up clear and definitive reasons for Council to vote against the motion – they fell on unhearing ears.

Chief Community Officer, Eber Butron, was kept busy all night answering in the negative, to question after question, about whether conditions, recently or historically, had been met.

There were several suggestions that the matter be deferred until councillors were able to properly digest all of the information that had come through at the eleventh hour.

Opposing councillors had the weight of 30 years of Council dealings with the owners of the quarry – meetings and Council refusals – as a springboard for debate, and they had more than one legal reason why the motion should be voted against. The Council staff recommendation was to refuse the application, and there were no ‘for’ speeches – Councillors Gordon and Rob both said they were going to vote to pass the motion, but neither gave their reasons.

Opposing councillors pleaded with the Krieg voting block to be fair, thoughtful and sensible with their voting privilege.

In any other debate in any other arena this motion would have failed – but not in Lismore Council.

The mayor put the vote to the floor – as expected, Councillors Gordon, Hall, Jensen, Bing, Rob and Krieg voted for. Those opposed were Councillors Guise, Colby, Bird and Ekins.


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15 COMMENTS

  1. Good decision.
    Now that RB road has been resurfaced near this quarry [but not properly marked on join to Wyrallah Rd., causing vehicle accidents] my original objection is satisfied, as we need all our local road re-construction materials to be available post 2022/1:300yr flood.
    Hopefully road maintenance here by LCC will be continued.

  2. A rescission motion was lodged and there has been an extraordinary gen meeting to deal with it next Tuesday That has been called as the 6 pack are wanting to avoid not being able to decide because I imagine there will be a plethora of Codes of Conduct against them .
    I oppose this approval of the MA just so you know where I stand. I have always sought a new DA be made to ensure the quarry operator complies with current laws on environment and planning .

    • Educated people buying an expensive property near a functioning rock-quarry without proper enquiry?
      Then later emotionally crusading that it should be severely restricted or shut down?
      Unfortunately, this sounds a lot like many other usual urban tree-changer/Covid refugee’s NIMBY attitudes using any (and all – even if farcical) arguments to support their buyer-remorse.

      • A functioning quarry that hasn’t met its previous regulatory and DA requirements?
        Objection satisfied?
        Pfff all go and no show

      • Play the ball, not the person. If you listen to objectors you’ll find they’re not against the quarry per se; if Santin adhered to the operating conditions there wouldn’t be such objections. Mick is very friendly, but contemptuous of anyone who believes he should operate the quarry under the prescribed conditions.

        • Fed – I’m all in favour of any quarry-owner having to stick to the D/A and all of the safety/noise/dust Regulations applicable.
          But it does look to any impartial observer that many of the objectors (+ their sycophants in the media etc.,) are demanding a shut-down of this valuable resource on any/spurious grounds.
          Or even closing it totally as a viable business by the imposition of more onerous conditions.
          Your quote ‘Play the ball, not the person’ jibe is considered hypocritical, as just afterwards you named the owner’ forename, then also commented on his character adversely.
          [* Maybe in future leave politics “out of it” and try and think solely of the benefits (or detractions) for the total local Lismore ratepayer community post-2022 floods.]

  3. Monaltrie… Monaltrie … all roads lead to Monaltrie. The koala killing development. The Mayor’s recent purchase of the homestead there. And the quarry. When does this nepotism and corruption get investigated and called out?

  4. Krieg calls for Respect, but has little respect for the knowledge and wisdom of Council staff. His idea of respect is about not having another view that might oppose his dumb team. They reject staff advice and rarely even say why. So disrespectful. It is frustratingly disgusting. Please dont run again.

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