THE NSW State Planning Department has overridden Lismore City Council and a 2011 Land and Environment Court ruling, and given its approval for the expansion of Champions Quarry at Tucki.
This was despite a recent Planning Assessment Commission, held in Lismore, being presented with 355 submissions from the general public, of which 310 were objecting to the proposed expansion and only 45 were in support.
The planning consent comes with a hefty swag of conditions, governing noise, traffic movements, roads, water and waste management, Aboriginal cultural heritage impacts and other environmental considerations.
But former Lismore mayor Jeff Champion will be able to extract a quarter of a million tonnes of product from his quarry each year,
limited to 50 truckloads a day and no more than five truckloads in an hour.
His companies, Reavill Farm Pty Ltd and Tucki Hills Pty Ltd, are charged with sealing an internal road and upgrading the intersections between Coraki and Wyrallah Roads and Wyrallah Ferry Road.
"Of course we're pleased and relieved," Mr Champion told The Echo.
"It's good that a much needed, state-significant resource has been approved, because of the lack of sand and engineered fill locally - but we're disappointed that Mayor Dowell chose to go against council's own planning department's recommendation for approval.
"In the remainder of my lifetime, I won't come close to recouping what this has cost to purchase the additional land and go through the approval process."
Mr Champion said the quarry was now approved for 25 years.
"There's enough resource in there for 100 years," he said.
"It will reduce the cost and greenhouse gas emissions involved in bringing sand down from the Tweed - and it will create effectively another eight jobs, without counting the sub-contractors."
Mr Champion said he believed people were more frightened of the unknown than the known, and that any problems and complaints (relating to the operation of the quarry) would be handled "properly".
"A quarry's not a place for a cowboy these days," he said. "And a cowboy wouldn't last long in this business."
While Mr Champion was enjoying his triumph among the candidates outside the pre-poll polling booth in Magellan Street on Monday, Mayor Jenny Dowell was not so happy.
"I'm very disappointed," she said.
"I've spoken to one of the nearby residents to the quarry and they're in despair. They're the ones who will bear the brunt of this decision.
"From my glance at it (the consent document), the grounds for approval don't seem very strong. And the most unfortunate part is compliance will be managed from Sydney, not locally, so any concerns about it being operated wrongly will be dealt with in Sydney without the benefit of local knowledge.
"It's an example of planning (control) being taken out of the hands of council and on to the state."
The mayor said she did not yet know if the council has room for an appeal.
"We had our refusal of a smaller expansion upheld in Land and Environment Court," she said.
"To have this much larger one approved is very disappointing indeed."
If Jeff Champion is triumphant and Cr Dowell is feeling disappointed, Donna Griffiths and her husband Simon, who live next to the quarry on Hazelmount Lane, are devastated at the approval.
"We are at a loss to understand the State Government decision," Donna said.
"Being sold out by the state to a developer who created the subdivision we live in, after the Land and Environment Court's refusal, is devastating," she said. "It's very hard not to be emotional.
"We don't have to tell you what we've been through for the past seven years. It's been terrible for the people who live nearby... now we've been completely stripped of our land rights, which the state evidently doesn't consider as important as one developer being able to dig up what was once a beautiful grazing paddock."
The planning consent allows the quarry to operate between 7am and 6pm Monday-Friday, and 8am-1pm on Saturdays, with rock hammer operations limited to 9am-12pm and 2-4pm on weekdays only.
"The state hasn't given consideration to our rights to continue our livelihood, or any benefit that we might have had from tourism from a bed and breakfast operation we hoped to run from here," Donna said.
"And our property value has dropped by about $100,000. We've had it on the market for the past two years, but of course I've been honest with people about the proposed quarry expansion.
"And our own future plans for our home - we brought our kids up here in a pristine environment and dreamed of enjoying it into the future, running a B&B - will be totally impacted.
"The State Government has ignored 30 Tucki people who spoke as one in support of refusing the quarry on its merits - but it was like 'consultation done, box ticked' but they didn't hear the people's, Lismore City Council's, or the Land and Environment Court's concerns."
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