At best the proposal to develop a hard rock quarry on crown land within the Broken Bago State Forest, a kilometre of the Herons Creek community, was ill-conceived.
From the fact it is situated on top of a hill which means the noise will reverberate through the agricultural valley, and popular tourist destination, to the threat an associated dam and stormwater run-off poses to the pristine Camden Haven and Hastings river systems, there are many reasons why it should not go ahead.
How it got to the stage where the NSW Government’s Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) requested more information before making a determination defies logic. Or, does it?
It appears local residents can explain exactly how this situation evolved.
No New Quarry Herons Creek member, Maureen Churnside, says this “grab for crown land” was aided and abetted by the Port Macquarie Hastings Council (PMHC) altering their Local Environment Plan (LEP). She claims the day after the proponent, CTK Natural Resources, and PMHC had meeting to discuss the lodging of such a development application (DA), a draft of the amended LEP was reported to Council.
According to Mrs Churnside the meeting was held on December 16, 2014, and the draft LEP Amendment 34 Planning Proposal was reported to Council on December, 17.
It contained 13 miscellaneous considerations, which included “a change to land use in RU3 (State Forest) to make extractive industries permissible, with consent, in all 24 State Forests in the PMH Local Government Area”.
“Prior to amendment 34, extractive industries were prohibited in an RU3 zone,” she explains.
Subsequently, about 12 months later the changes were enacted.
She can recall the exact day – December 1, 2015. Later that month CTK NR lodged their DA 2015/953, seeking consent to extract approximately 200 000 tonnes of material per year for a period of 20 years.
The Forestry Corporation of NSW are the owners of the land and they entered into a Deed of Agreement with the proponent for a conditional licence to operate a hard rock quarry within the land. Although the process to alter the 2011 LEP was conducted in an appropriate manner, Ms Churnside is critical of how the changes were portrayed to the public during the exhibition period.
An overview described them as “..fairly minor amendments to LEP 2011 to rectify anomalies, to update details and to streamline the consideration of future developments by removing unnecessary restrictions.” Needless to say the council recommended the proposal be approved and as the planning system dictates the fete of the project is now in the hands of the JRRP.
She is confident the panel will put an end to this “lunacy” after they requested an assessment of alternative sites, an updated noise impact assessment, and a social and economic impact assessment, at a public meeting on September 21.
Mrs Churnside says CTK NR submitted a mediocre response by October, and it only addressed the noise issue.
“It shows a contempt for the JRPP, and the community as they didn’t answer their questions. If it is approved there is something very wrong with the planning system.”