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Cabbage Tree Road sand quarry application opposed on planning and environmental grounds

Darrell Dawson made this submission on behalf of EcoNetwork opposing the Cabbage Tree Road sand quarry application (No: SSD 6125) to the Director of Resource Assessments, Department of Planning and Environment, on 12 February 2016.

EcoNetwork-Port Stephens is a grassroots community-focused network advocating scientifically informed environmental legislation including state and local regulation for accountable transparent DA processing for improved and sustainable outcomes.

Our interest in this DA, associated and other due process is non-pecuniary; we do not donate to political parties. Our objections to this DA- SSD 6125 are partially expressed on the following grounds:

1. Absence of transparency and accountability in leasing process

This Sand Quarry Application was preceded by Port Stephens Council controversially granting a lease to Castle Quarry Products a company going into receivership and unable to pay the required Bank Guarantee of $250,000.

A $250,000 Bank Guarantee then miraculously appeared in the Council’s bank account the source of which the Council refused to disclose.

Council then transferred the lease to shelf-company Benelli Holdings Pty Ltd,

now operating under this lease as Williamtown Sand Syndicate Pty Ltd. (PSC Minutes 28th July 2015).

This controversial leasing arrangement had by now involved three Buildev companies (but only one, since in receivership, of the original 9 Expressions of Interest) without recourse to a new tender process and with grave doubts arising from the absence of transparency and accountability that attracted wide public and media attention.

2. Over-supply of local sand resources

This questionable DA process irresponsibly proceeded with the sand quarry proposal to lay waste to a minimum of 53.9 hectares of the 176 hectare site, mostly comprising natural vegetation and an extensive diversity of flora and fauna including those known to be vulnerable and endangered under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. (EIS-Vol.2 Appendices 1 & 2)

This destructive DA proposal is an example of the prevailing ‘business as usual’ outlook to exploit for the dollars available an identified sand resource just 10km from 5 other sand quarries including a seventh proposed for Bobs Farm on an equally environmentally sensitive site that should also be refused consent.

This DA (SSD 6125) would be an unnecessary exploitation of an environmentally sensitive site for an over-supplied market arising only for an easy dollar flow for an opportunistic company and for the local council. This DA must be refused.

3. Unacceptable impacts on vulnerable and endangered flora and fauna

Going through the usual legalities and farce to exploit grossly inadequate environmental legislation that can wreck the habitat of rare, vulnerable and endangered species, is a vandalising power play of DA proponents and their hired consultants.

Consultant Umwelt has responded in Volume 2 – Appendices 1 & 2 with extensive and informative flora and fauna species listings within this Swamp Sclerophyl Forest.

The rich biodiversity on this 176 hectares includes the core koala habitat of preferred koala feed trees. Of all the listed species, the Koala (Phactolarctos cenereus) alone stands out among all of these as an iconic species.

The listed preferred koala feed trees : Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta); Earp’s Red Gum (Eucalyptus parramatensis); Forest Red gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis); and Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus signata), by their size and shade share the same and similar, often wet natural environments as do most of the flora and fauna species listed. It’s unique in its rich biodiversity and must be retained in its natural and solitary state of comparative isolation for the sake of the vulnerable and endangered species hosted by this habitat.

Any human intervention in these habitats is always destabilising and destructive just as a ‘site specific koala plan of management ’would be farcical. (Vol.2 – Appendix G).

 4. Excessive Cabbage Tree Road impacts

Vehicular safety on this 90kh road will be potentially compromised with the added cumulative effects of hundreds of heavy trucks utilising a “left turn in and left turn out” to and from the site.

While this would be hazardous enough for residents, the proposal to utilise a right-hand turn at the Cabbage Tree Road /Nelson Bay Road roundabout approximately 4 kilometres to the east would be an added intensification on the roundabout with hundreds of heavily laden truck movements.

This would be an unacceptable traffic hazard on this busy arterial road accessing Newcastle Airport, the RAAF Fighter Base and the population centres of Medowie, the Tilligerry and Tomaree Peninsulas.

5. Cumulative impacts on the Williamtown environment and lifestyle

The quality of life for the people of Williamtown is increasingly under pressure and threat as they consider their options into the future following decades of neglect as in:

Repeated flooding of this former lake-bed, heavy minerals mining (rutile, zircon) and damage to aquifers, massive losses for its dairy industry, intrusive ongoing aircraft noise, contamination from perflurochemicals PFOS and PFOA; and now this sand quarry DA which strikes at the heart of Williamtown’s natural environment and its rare and endangered species, potentially increasing on-road hazards and human health concerns from wind-borne dust.

This background with its ongoing cumulative impacts requires and demands more definitive legislative action initiating a sustainable direction for Williamtown.

6. Ecologically Sustainable Development – Local Government Amendment Act 1997

Enacted as a response to poor planning, environmentally destruction and excessive development practices in NSW, this Amendment Act remains in limbo as a mere consideration among a long list of largely ineffective environmental laws in this State.

Originating from the United Nations Organisation and formulated at the 1992 World Earth Summit attended by the world’s nations, the principles of this legislation if implemented, would represent a paradigm shift from the current destructive course to sustainable economic and environmental outcomes.

Ecologically sustainable development requires effective integration of economic and environmental considerations in decision-making processes; its 8 stated principles include:

– The precautionary principle – a lack of scientific evidence should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to preventing environmental degradation.

– Conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity as a fundamental consideration.

To save and conserve our natural ecosystems and endangered wildlife species, this Local Government Amendment Act must be given the full weight and authority of the law including with this DA; in which case, if this rapidly changing rural environment is to avoid further ad hoc, ill-considered development we must have a comprehensive planning and sustainable management plan for Williamtown.