Brandy Hill battle: quarrel of quarry’s expansion plans

Brandy Hill residents.

Brandy Hill residents.

Brandy Hill residents are bracing for another battle with quarry operator Hanson, who are proposing to more than double their hard rock production to 1.5 million tonnes a year over the next 30 years.

The planned expansion by Hanson, who say they are committed to operating the quarry in an environmentally friendly manner while continuing to engage with the community, would also include a new processing plant, concrete batching and concrete recycling.

But residents, who were alerted to the proposal through a ‘have-a-chat’ session on February 6 at Seaham, have expressed road safety, health, noise and dust emission concerns if production levels are increased from 700,000 tonnes to 1.5 million tonnes a year.

“Brandy Hill has close to 1000 residents and many of those will be impacted by this proposal. This issue deals with our day to day lives,” Brandy Hill/Seaham Action Group spokesperson Margarette Ritchie said.

“We have made suggestions that have been rubbished or ignored and have never asked for the quarry to be closed completely. At the same time we don't want to be treated like mugs.”

A company spokesperson said that about 20 people attended the informal session which was set up in response to community requests that Hanson extend consultation beyond the existing Community Consultative Committee.

“The concerns expressed by the local community were reviewed as part of the EIS process and a response was provided in a document which outlines a comprehensive review of the proposed mitigation measures,” the spokesperson said.

“Some of the key measures Hanson has committed to include enclosing all fixed processing equipment from Stage 1 of operations – industry best practice. In addition, Hanson will continue to suppress dust through use of a water cart and will construct an amenity bund to shield the quarry.”

The spokesperson said that Hanson had also proposed a number of measures to improve road safety and traffic noise generation. “These include a trial reduction in speed for trucks travelling along Brandy Hill Drive and limiting night time deliveries to Hanson-owned trucks.”

The existing operation was granted approval by the Port Stephens Council in 1983 but the expansion proposal – considered to be a state significant development – would be assessed by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment. 

The Hanson spokesperson said that the current proposal was of strategic importance to satisfy growing demand from the construction industry in Newcastle, the Hunter and Sydney regions.

Mrs Ritchie said that the Brandy Hill/Seaham Action Group was formed in 2013 after residents had noticed an increase in the number of quarry truck movements.

“We have every right to be able to move from home to bus stops or to walk/ride in safety,” she said. “When two trucks pass on Brandy Hill Drive they must cross the verge white lines and pedestrians have no safe passage. With up to 622 truck movements per day it is their responsibility to ensure the community’s safety.

“We believe that dust and noise enclosures around processing equipment to meet quarry best practice standards should be enforced.”

Group members said there was conjecture over the 1983 approved hours of operation - 6am to 6pm, six days per week.

“The operators need to prove to us they are following best practice standards by the doing the right thing by the community.”

A Port Stephens Council spokesperson said that it had not received any formal complaint or request to investigate the validity of the existing quarry's operations.