Port Stephens quarry quandary: New rock quarry proposal for Italia Road in Balickera

Image of a rock quarry. Picture: Australian Resource Development Group website
Image of a rock quarry. Picture: Australian Resource Development Group website

A proposal for a new rock quarry in Port Stephens has raised concerns among at least two councillors relating to traffic safety, the number of truck movements and environmental impact.

Australian Resource Development Group (ARDG) is seeking state planning approval for a hard rock quarry, known as 'Stone Ridge' and located within the Wallaroo state forest at Italia Road, Balickera.

The applicant is seeking to extract, process and transport 1.5 million tonnes of rock per annum over 30 years.

ARDG spokesperson Justin Meleo said that the quarry operation would be contained within an area of approximately 89ha, not all of which will be cleared of vegetation.

"The final project layout will be informed by the results of environmental impact assessment studies, plus community and stakeholder consultation," he said.

Cr Paul Le Mottee said the proposal would mean that Port Stephens now has applications, from memory, for four quarries within its LGA, comprising the ARDG quarry; the expansion of Boral's quarry; a quarry south of the Boral site; and the expansion of Hanson's quarry.

"In addition, we have Martins Creek hovering just over the LGA boundary. That's a lot of material and a lot of trucks to be managed if they all proceed. Of the four sites, three applications would be determined by the state government and one by council," he said.

"Three of the four applications use Italia Road for access to the highway and Hanson's uses Brandy Hill Drive and Seaham Road. I don't feel the short length of Italia Road is too much of a problem. However, the intersection of Italia Road and the Pacific Highway will be a significantly more dangerous place with that many trucks.

"I feel that the state should be contributing heavily to that intersection to make it safe, as well as contributing to [upgrade] Brandy Hill Drive and Seaham Road."

Questioned about the number of daily truck movements, Mr Meleo said a detailed Traffic Impact Assessment would be prepared to assess the changes in traffic volumes on the surrounding road network.

"This will include consideration of intersection capacity, traffic safety, accessibility and assessment of potential cumulative impacts on the road network. No trucks will be dispatched from the site until a suitable and safe access arrangement is in place for the Italia Road-Pacific Highway intersection," he said.

Cr Giacomo Arnott said that the cumulative impact of truck movements on local roads proposed by ARDG needed to be considered, and any impact on koala habitat and state forest needed to be addressed and that he would be ensuring these quarries are having as minimal an impact on people's lives as possible.

"Concerns from local residents have been raised with me in regard to the proposal to expand the Boral quarry on Italia Road, so I've requested this proposal be decided by councillors instead of council staff," he said.

"Extractive industries can have a huge impact on the environment, roads, and people's quality of life, so it's important that elected representatives assess the information and make these decisions."

Mr Meleo said it was yet to be determined whether koala habitat existed at the site.

"Detailed ecological studies have commenced in support of the EIS and the results will be considered in the detailed biodiversity assessments and offset strategies for the project."

He said that existing supply of hard rock quarry products was serviced by some quarries that are generally in the latter stages of their development lives and he anticipated that at maximum production, up to 12-15 site-based personnel would be employed at Stone Ridge.

"The project is in the early phases of detailed design and assessment, with scoping report expected to be lodged in the next fortnight. Community input is a key element of the project to ensure that any community issues are recognised and incorporated into project planning and considered as part of the EIS," Mr Meleo said.

"ARDG has begun consulting with the community surrounding the site and will continue to do so throughout the EIS process. ARDG welcomes any further community input."