Quarry proposed for Herons Creek

Location of the proposed quarry.
Location of the proposed quarry.

HERONS Creek could be the location of a new quarry to extract four million tonnes of rock over the next 20 years.

Community members are meeting at 7pm Friday January 29 at the Herons Creek Community Chapel to discuss the proposed development.

The development application, environmental impact statement and maps detailing the quarry project are on display at Port Macquarie-Hastings Council offices and on the PMHC Listening website until February 22.

Submissions on the development close 4.30pm February 22.

Site map from PMHC Listening.

Site map from PMHC Listening.

CTK Natural Resources (CTK NR), a local business, has applied to the council and NSW Department of Planning and Environment to develop a hard rock quarry in the Broken Bago State Forest, Lookout Road, Herons Creek.

The quarry would extract approximately 200,000 tonnes of material per year for 20 years.

The total land area for the project is 188ha (465 acres). The land area for the quarry and processing plant is approximately 20ha (49 acres).

The site would process and store more than 30,000 tonnes of extracted materials. The project also involves the construction of a sediment and water process dam (not more than 10 mega litres) for the discharge of stormwater.

In the Environmental Impact Statement for the project, “the quarry will provide hard rock material that is suitable for the construction of roads, gabion walls, rail ballasts and metal by-products that will provide for the local and regional construction industry.

“The proposed quarry has the advantage of operational efficiencies and reduced production costs over alternative locations. The quarry is strategically positioned on the Mid North Coast, being in close proximity to existing and future Pacific Highway Upgrade projects and local contractors.

“The quarry is also well-positioned in terms of isolation from sensitive land uses and is visually screened by existing established forest vegetation and topography.”

The Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) are the owners of the land on which the quarry is proposed. FCNSW entered a Deed of Agreement with CTK NR for a conditional licence to operate the quarry. The quarry works cannot occur until there is development consent and until FCNSW has completed their harvesting and clearing of the trees and then cleared the line of residual logging debris on the Blackbutt plantation portion of the quarry site.

The next round of harvesting by FCNSW is due to begin early this year.

Once operational, the quarry would employ up to 12 people and engage approximately ten haulage subcontractors.

The environmental impact statement for the proposal states the hard rock found at the site is of high quality, which is in short supply, citing the current shortfall in supply from existing quarries locally and further afield for hard rock material as one of six justifications for the project.

Residents of Herons Creek are concerned about the project and will discuss the development at this week’s meeting.

Initial concerns have been expressed about the proposed dam which, Ray Posner believes, will disrupt Herons Creek itself.

“Of particular concern is that the proposed dam will be 10,000,000 (10million) litres in size and the quarry, according to the Environmental Impact Statement, proposes using 39,000,000 (39 million) litres of water a year. This dam is to be constructed across a number of watercourses, which will stop water flowing into Herons Creek from these streams and potentially reduce environmental flow and water supply and water quality for cattle which are run on a number of properties,” Mr Posner said.

The community was consulted about the proposal via information fliers which Paul Kolbe believes are inaccurate.

“The information flyer sent to us before the lodgement of the DA included a map. The map is incomplete and doesn't cover the whole site area which includes a huge dam located only a few hundred metres from our properties,” Mr Kolbe said.

“The waffling text of the flyer is in the DA documents however the misleading map is not. This wasn't appropriate public information or consultation."

Also of concern is the proximity to existing homes and businesses, including another quarry.

"There is concern about the cumulative affects of two quarries operating in such close proximity to Herons Creek, to Bago Winery and people's homes,” said resident Alicia Bales.

A quarry operated by Volcanic Resources already operates in the area. In 2013 the Land and Environment Court ordered Volcanic Resources to pay $76,000 for water pollution incidents which occurred in June 2012, when “sediment-laden water leaked through the quarry’s dam wall and into an unnamed creek and flows into Herons Creek” states the NSW Environmental Protection Authority website.

Volcanic Resources was a 30,000 tonne per year quarry. The company has also been fined twice for selling more material than their licence allows.

A source who wished not to be named said, “They have had their licence limit increased sixteen fold, to 490,000 tonnes per annum. That quarry is located within approximately two kilometres of this new proposed quarry site. Both have the potential to detrimentally affect Herons Creek and its tributaries. Herons Creek has been identified as a Coastal Floodplain Endangered Ecological Community by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.”

Ecological communities are groups of plants and animals that occur together in a particular area. According to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, by listing an ecological community as endangered, all component species of that community are protected.

Quarry developments, once approved and in operation, can legally to apply to change their licence. This means increasing the amount of material extracted, increasing the size of the quarry.

In 2013 Hy-Tec successfully applied to temporarily increase the extraction from their Grants Head quarry in Bonny Hills from 120,000 tonnes per year to 200,000 tonnes per year for five years.

To find out more about the project, be at the meeting on January 29, and visit http://pmhclistening.com.au/extractive-industry-quarry or local council offices in Laurieton, Port Macquarie or Wauchope for further details.