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Hanson Quarry Future

Below is the letter from Peter Bernardo and Michelle Stevenson to Cr Darren Pearce and Mayor Nicole Seymour, in response to the article “Message from Cr. Darren Pearce, Taylor Ward Councillor – Knox City Council, Hanson Quarry Future” published in August 2020 edition of Rowville-Lysterfield Community News:

I refer to the article “Message from Cr. Darren Pearce, Taylor Ward Councillor – Knox City Council, Hanson Quarry Future”.

In your article you provided a number of “Facts”.  It is that you have either inadvertently or deliberately omitted a number of other “FACTS”
which the Rowville, Lysterfield and the greater community of Knox are entitled to have presented to them, to provide them with a more complete picture of the current and proposed operations of the Hanson and Boral quarries:
1. What is the expiry date of the current planning approvals both Hanson and Boral quarry operations:,
2. What is the expected extension timeframe of quarrying if the Hanson quarry extension is approved;
3. What is the number of blast per annun per quarry over the last 5 years;
4. What is the quantity (in tonnes) of material that has been produced/processed/excavated per annum per quarry over the last 5 years;
5. What is the weekly average no of trucks that enter and exit both quarries over the past 5 years;

Questions 3-5 were put to Darren Pearce in an email dated 18 July 2020, to which no reply has been received.

Following a meeting with Knox City Council officers on 22 July 2020, a request for a copy of the Planning Permit pertaining to the Hanson quarry was made, to which the response was “the information is a public document” and a copy of the permit would be issued to me. A copy of the Planning Permits have yet to be issued and since meeting, also requested a copy of all planning permits isssued since 1990 in subsequent recent emails. No copies of the Planning Permits have been received.

Furthermore, I am still yet to receive a response to my email/letter dated 23 June 2020. Can you please confirm receipt and advise if that is an oversight or deliberate. Further to your article, I believe there are more than just a “few” local residents within the Rowville/Lysterfield Community, who are adversely impacted on a daily basis as a result of the operations of the two quarries (Hanson and Boral) adjacent Wellington Road, Rowville/Lysterfield The impacts include and are not limited to: property damage, mental and physical health and wellbeing, pollution and road safety. Furthermore, the local community sentiment strongly believes that the adverse impacts that we face today will be demonstrably exacerbated over another 20-30 years, if the Hanson quarry extension is permitted.

Below is a list of some of the residential addresses that we know have damage, which property owners believe is a result of quarry blasting operations or the blasting operations are contributing to property damage.
Magdalena Place, Rowville
Georgia Mae Close, Rowville
The Lookout, Lysterfield
Carlingford Close, Rowville
Memory Lane, Rowville
Ashbrooke Close, Rowville
Golding Ave, Rowville
Suerulla Close, Rowville
Sanford Close, Rowville
Reservoir Cres., Rowville
Sheridan Ave, Rowville
Pia Drive, Rowville
Dani Court, Rowville

This is further reinforced by an email attached from ERR dated 10 September 2020, which confirms that 156 complaints were received by ERR between May 2020 and 24 August 2020, inclusive.

Moreover, as our local community leader and local Ward Councillor we understand and believe your role is to represent and advocate on behalf of the local community on issues of significance to the local commuity. Therefore we ask that you present the community issues in writing relating to the impacts of Hanson quarry extension and the current quarry operations with the relevant State Government Authorities; Earth Resources Regulator, EPA, DEWLP, DOT (aka VicRoads, Melbourne Water, Parks Victoria, just to name a few. In relation to the motion you presented at recent Council meeting RE: Trucks on Wellington Road, the root cuase of the issues the community is facing on a daily basis comes from the enourmous and sheer volume of trucks on the road network as adirect result of the quarry operations, something you failed to understand and present to Council and DOT/VicRoads.

Below is a response to the contents of the RLCN August 2020 article:
A. Cr Pearce wrote, “The Boral and Hanson sites have been in existence since 1926 and 1978 respectively.” This statement can potentially lead a reader to an erroneous impression that because the quarries existed long before the houses were built, any complaints by residents now are invalidated. This comment is misleading because both quarries did not operate at current levels of operations until more recent times.

Some more FACTS:
a) The Boral site consisted of i) 7 land titles owned by Dandenong Quarries PL ii) 5 titles to Albion PL iii) 3 titles to Bayview Ltd. All 15 titles were purchased by the State in 1986 and leased as crown land to Boral under the Extractive Industries(Lysterfield) Act 1986. Hence, so whilst some of these land titles may have had quarrying licences, the Boral Lysterfield quarry as it is today did not exist until 1986;
b) The Hanson site was purchased by Pioneer in 1978. Hanson PLC UK acquired Pioneer worldwide in 1999. Then in 2007 Heidelberg Cement Heidelberg, Germany which is a listed company on the DAX, acquired Hanson PLC and this included the acquisition of all of Hanson Australia’s assets. The name Hanson was retained but it is always underscored by Heidelberg Cement. The exponential growth of the quarry in size and operations to what it is today can be directly traced back to Heidelberg Cement’s takeover of Hanson;
c) Since 1990, Knox City Council has approved the following Hanson planning permits and motions,
i) Installation of crushing plant,
ii) Development of concrete batching plant,
iii) Development of weighbridge,
iv) Office and machinery buildings,
v) Extension of existing quarry
vi) Development of telecommunications facility
vii) Overburden earthworks (most recent in 2019), plus
viii) On 28 May 2018, KCC moved a motion by Cr Pearce to remove a Public Acquisition Overlay of the Hanson site without public
d) For most of the 1990’s Knox City Council was approving huge volumes of residential subdivisions, including the Wellington Village developments, directly leading to the current situation of clashes between the residents and the quarries.

The Hanson site in the early years never produced anything like the current volumes of extractives until i) after the takeover by Hanson UK in 1999 and , ii) again grew exponentially upon the acquisition by Heidelberg Cement, Germany. The cement batching plant (with additional toxic environmental impacts) also did not exist in the early years.

Based on the FACTS as stated above, it is misleading to use the argument that the quarries, as they are now, existed before the houses. You cannot compare apples and oranges like that. The argument is not valid.

B. Under the heading “Resident Concerns” – Cr Pearce commented “The problems caused dust generated from the quarry operations, despite the regular daily use of dust suppressant”.

Some more FACTS:
The Hanson CRG minutes say they apply a substance “Gluon” once a year on the stockpiles and “Dustmag” on the dirt roads since 2017. They have a 50,000 litre water cart which only came into existence in 2018
The dust is coming from:
i. Blasting
ii. Crushing – on average about 4 times from primary to secondary crusher
iii. Cement batching plant – the dust has to be very fine and they also add coal fly
ash. Their own safety documentation says it’s dangerous when inhaled.
iv. Unsealed roads within the site
v. Truck and machinery movements whipping up dust

Suffice to say that whatever dust suppression methods Hanson says they are applying, they are not working. Hanson’s own published material says they apply “Gluon” only once a year on the stockpiles and the residents have no means of verifying if “regular daily use
of dust suppressant” occurs. The residents have documented evidence showing Hanson regularly flouting their statutory conditions of operations hence hold no confidence they are doing everything they can, given the continuously high levels of dust experienced. It is
also not possible to effectively control dust from blasting and primary crushing because the nature of these operations means you cannot apply a suppressant as such. This further evidenced by the volume of dust desposited along Wellington Road.

The comment appears tilted in defence of Hanson when he asserts “regular daily use of dust suppressant”. This Fact Check indicates this statement is UNSUBSTANTIATED.

C. Under the heading “Facts”, Cr Pearce wrote, “Both quarries have long term licence permits, issued by the State Government’s Earth Resources Dept…”

Some more FACTS:
The Earth Resource Regulation (ERR) has the role of regulating the operations of extractive industries, it sits under the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions. The ERR is responsible for overseeing the approval process of a Work Plan; which must be statutorily endorsed under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990. A final work plan (or variation) must be approved to be granted a Work Authority. This part of the process governs the activities and regulatory requirements of operations on the site.  A further planning permit process must also be undertaken at the local council level (Knox City Council) under local government planning provisions and this relates to where the site sits and its impact on the surrounding environment.

It is very important to understand this 2-step process in order to clearly define what conditions are covered under the Work Plan/Work Authority under the ERR, and what conditions relate to the Planning Permit, which is in the domain of Knox City Council. In practice, these 2 authorities do have to mutually refer/consult since a quarry site does not exist in a bubble. For example, the Hanson site sits right next to
i) an Urban Growth Zone,
ii) Heritage Site (Heany Park), and
iii) Conservation State Parks.

The quarry itself, whilst holding a “Special Use Zone”, also sits within a Green Wedge zoning. This should by
virtue of its sensitive location require both the Work Plan and the Planning Permit to enforce restricted hours of operations, extraction volume limits, EPA certification and a detailed Transportation policy at the very least. All of these items impact on the environment outside of the site, making it vitally important that what is approved for the site takes into consideration the flow-on effects to the surrounding community and environment.

The sad fact is, the approval processes governing the granting of Hanson’s work plan/work plan variations and planning permits, were not done with due diligence in line with the many pieces of legislations and regulations. It is high time they are reviewed and amended where necessary. Regardless of these being old “licences” as such, there are provisions within legislature and the documents themselves that empowers the responsible authorities to “call in” for review. The precedent already exists within the ERR with a 100 year old quarry holding a 1960 Planning Permit which was issued with an instruction to review and update.

In light of the extra information, this comment by Cr Pearce is INCOMPLETE and therefore is also potentially MISLEADING.

D. Under the heading “Facts”, Cr Pearce wrote “There is a statutory planning application being prepared by Earth Resources, for expansion of operations…, if and when the planning application is finalised, it will be submitted to Knox Council, with time made available for community submissions.  This statement is just plain INCORRECT. The Work Plan Variation application is always prepared by the operator and lodged with the ERR. As explained above, the Planning Permit process is a separate application lodged with the local council. Knox City Council’s
Planning Permit rules stipulates that there is only a 14 DAY WINDOW TO LODGE AN OBJECTION to a planning permit application. For a permit of such financial magnitude and which has such far reaching environmental effects, the period open for objection is grossly inadequate. Residents have requested Knox City Council and Cr Pearce to engage in a community wide consultation process (extended duration with direct and/or electronic mailouts, visible notification signs at Hanson’s front entrance etc) on this issue
but have been met with deadly silence.

E. Under the heading “Facts”. Cr Pearce wrote “The State Government has the power to call in and approve the application at any time, bypassing Knox Council and VCAT” The Minister for Resources cannot simply approve an application of this size and scope as they please. The Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 – Section 77T states:

If under a planning scheme a permit is required to be obtained for carrying out an extractive industry on the land covered by an extractive industry work authority in accordance with that work authority, the holder of the work authority is not required to obtain a permit if-
(a) An Environment Effects Statement has been prepared under the Environment Effects Act 1978 on the work proposed to be done under the work authority; and
(b) An assessment of that Statement by the Minister administering the Environment Effects Act 1978 has been submitted to the Minister; and
(c) The work authority was granted by the Minister following the Minister’s consideration of that assessment.

A Minister can only “bypass” if an EES has been completed. The EES process is very tedious. A local government councillor should be very careful to put out a statement that is UNTRUE and MISLEADING.

F. Under the heading “Facts” Cr Pearce wrote “The minimum EPA recommended limit…is 500m from any dwelling, unless the operator can demonstrate, they can meet acceptable benchmarks for blasting….” The EPA is the authority that sets and monitors the separation distance limits (EPA Publication number 1518, March 2013). The EPA has already informed us officially that Hanson DOES NOT HOLD AN EPA LICENCE. By pure reasoning, if Hanson has never been granted an EPA licence to operate, then how would they have demonstrated to the
EPA that they met “acceptable benchmarks for blasting”, or appropriate mitigation measures to be permitted to operate outside the EPA guidelines. Work Plan 385 also states it is not an approval pursuant to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).

G. More “Facts” Cr Pearce asserts, “VicRoads is exclusively responsible for Wellington Road….including the truck movements in and out of the quarries.”

The Hanson Work Plan 385 is deficient because it does not include a TRANSPORT condition or clause. It is supposed to include a transport clause governing road usage. This again points towards negligence on the part of the ERR not to have called in this work plan long ago for review. There have been many instances of complaints raised by the community in the past regarding and the unsustainable volume of trucks and the condition of Wellington Road and the, which is in no small part caused by both the quarries.  Under Work Plan 385, the ERR has the power to enforce a change, pursuant to Clause 1“…Where any inconsistency occurs between the Work Plan and other Work Authority
conditions or regulations, the Work Authority conditions and regulations have precedence.”

This statement is INCORRECT and MISLEADING especially in relation to the truck movements in and out of the quarries. VicRoads is responsible for the maintenance of Wellington Road which includes the installation of equipment to supervise/moderate/curb traffic flow but is NOT “responsible for trucks movements in and out if the quarries”. The supervision of heavy vehicles on public roads is under the jurisdiction of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. Traffic infringements are under Vic Police. VicRoads have been unfairly blamed for the delinquency of the work plans and planning permits of both the Lysterfield quarries. There should have been provisions in these documents to
i) regulate production volume,
ii) mandatory installation of truck traffic management systems, and
iii) penalty provisions for road maintenance.

Missing from this discussion about roads are the problems on local roads which are under Knox City Council’s responsibility. Cr Pearce has omitted to mention about complaints from residents of quarry trucks using the nature strip along local roads as parking bays damaging the edges, as well as unauthorised use of local roads as short cuts or rerouting to avoid traffic police surveillance.

H. Cr Pearce wrote “ Part of the current buffer to the Hanson Quarry, is the Knox Council owned Heany Park and other private land that has an environmental overlay on it, providing a permanent barrier between the Hanson quarry and local residents in the Heany Park area.”
The Heany Park site plus a small rectangular land area occupied by the Girl Guides hold Heritage Overlay status. These two land areas are leased to both the Scouts and Girl Guides for many years. Both groups use this site as camping grounds and there are amenity buildings on this site which are frequented by Scouts and Girl Guide groups. The buildings on this site must be classified as “sensitive sites” because of the frequent use by children, much like schools. For Knox City Council and it’s councillor to put up this argument that this Heany Park site is considered as part of Hanson’s buffer is irresponsible and reprehensible.

Furthermore, the move by Knox City Council to deem private land (not owned by Hanson) as buffer for Hanson bars the owner/s from any use of the land for as long as Hanson is in operation. This is grossly disadvantaging the owner of this private land, and that can be open to litigation. Similarly, the use of council land as a buffer to meet Hanson’s minimum separation distance limits is also highly inappropriate. Public assets should not be exclusively applied in this way to benefit a for-profit corporation. The question of probity should be raised with the Local Government Inspectorate regarding Knox City Council and Councillor Pearce as to why publicly and privately owned land can be “locked in” this way to favour a private business corporation. Furthermore the EPA guidelines are clear in that the separation distances should be fully contained with the boundaries of the operation.

This statement by Cr Pearce is DOUBTFUL and should be challenged.
I. Cr Pearce commented, “If I did expressly I supported or opposed any application for an extension to the quarry, at a minimum I would have to disqualify myself from voting on the matter.”  With all the above items being Fact Checked, it could be argued that Cr Pearce should, at a minimum have to disqualify himself from voting on any matter relating to the Hanson quarry.

Unlike more recent correspondence, we look forward to a response.

Peter Bernardo
Michelle Stevenson

  • Sep'2021

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