Residents of Tucki Tucki are gearing up for the final round in the long-running battle over the proposed expansion of Champions Quarry.
Former Lismore mayor Jeff Champion and his company Reavill Farm want to expand the quarry from its current output of 63,800 tonnes per annum to 250,000 tonnes per annum. His development application was knocked back by Lismore City Council on 11 separate grounds including not complying with prescribed buffers, traffic impacts, noise and dust issues, visual impact for those living in the Tucki Tucki community, plus impacts on flora, fauna and Aboriginal sites. Mr Champion then took the matter to the Land and Environment Court, which upheld Council's decision.
Mr Champion also applied to the former Labor Planning Minister Tony Kelly to have the project assessed as a matter of "regional significance" under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. One of Barry O'Farrell's first acts as Premier was to abolish Part 3A assessments, but projects that had already been submitted were handed to a Planning Assessment Commission.
The Champions Quarry project is now at the front of the queue for assessment as a major project. It is on public exhibition until Friday, March 2. You can see the project's documentation by visiting majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au and following the links to the 'On Exhibition' page.
A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure said the assessment "will give careful consideration to the issues raised by (Lismore) Council as well as the issues raised by the Land and Environment Court in its judgement on a separate proposal for the site".
President of the community group Tucki Community Against Mega Quarry, Chris Woolley, said they had been battling the expansion since 2006.
"This is the developer who doesn't like the 'no' word," Mr Woolley said.
He said the group would be meeting early next week to go through the new proposal and would also be meeting with Lismore Council.
"This has cost the community a lot to fight through the council (over $1 million in legal fees). It has cost him (Mr Champion) just as much, but I don't know where the money's coming from because it's not coming out of the quarry. Hopefully this will be the straw that breaks the camel's back."
As well as the increased output from the quarry, the application includes increasing the extraction pit from two to 16 hectares and processing and washing sand on-site, constructing associated infrastructure including dams and a weighbridge, realigning lot boundaries and increasing operating hours from 7am to 5.30pm on weekdays and 7.30am to 3pm on Saturdays.
There are some changes to the previously exhibited proposal including repositioning a noise barrier; the addition of a biodiversity offset strategy; additional studies and details on Aboriginal and cultural heritage, biodiversity, noise, traffic, visual impact, soil and water management; additional detail and changes to quarry management procedures and increasing the maximum laden truck movements to 50 per day.
Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell said it was "unclear" exactly what role, if any, Council would have in the process.
Cr Simon Clough has told The Echo he will put forward a motion at the next Council meeting calling for Council to make a submission to the committee.
"All we can do is look at the new application, assess it and make a submission," he said.
"At this stage it is not clear whether Mr Champion is still proposing to reduce Council's road levy. Under the previous application he was asking for a $5 million subsidy from the community over the life of the quarry (approximately 25 years)... The truck movements will average 30 a day, as compared to 11. There are still eight houses within the buffer zones, that hasn't changed. The expansion would mean more noise and more dust on a very significant scale. There is the impact on local roads and very significant issues of Aboriginal heritage value in the area."
Cr Clough said Council should "look at the application on its merits" but said at this stage he would be recommending that they not support it.
Jeff Champion did not wish to make any comment.
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