Specifically, I think it’s time to talk about the quarry at Gap road, Alstonville and the group lead by the Greens(Jeff Johnson, Effie Abblett) and Tyrone/Helen Mcgillick(also known as Helene de joux) that want to shut down a 100 year old business in Ballina Shire.
The gap road quarry has been in operation since 1908, with the Asphalt plant at the site running since 1978. The current operation provides materials needed for our roads across the shire and has supplied material for the critical Pacific Highway upgrades that have been taking place.
The current Boral operation provides food on the table and employment for 50 people, making it a core employer for a location that has historically suffered from high unemployment.
The current application to operate the plant was approved at the ordinary council meeting 23rd February 1995. The application at the time provided improved environmental outcomes, while still enabling a viable business to continue to grow.
In addition to this, the application DA 1995/127 fully complied with councils LEP and planning instruments at the time, importantly a significant buffer of 400m was established between the operations and the nearest residential development. This buffer has been maintained and protected for the 21 years since(The group will claim this is untrue because there was one minor dwelling modification approx 3 years ago, but it isn’t relevant and doesn’t alter the point).
Fast forward to 2015, some 20 years since the buffer was put in place, and some 108 years since the quarries operation and a small group started up with the initial admirable intentions of ensuring the operators meet their requirements under the existing consent (which of course I had no issue with) to it very quickly going downhill and becoming a case of wanting to close down a completely legal industry in Alstonville(And importantly for the Greens, a political tool for an election).
This is ultimately where I have to draw the line, the claims that are being made to justify shutting down the operations can only be described as clinically insane.
For those that have seen the “scientific material” provided by Green member, Effie Abblett, the claim in short is that the smell of hot Bitumen causes cancer. The document circulated (I’ve uploaded to my website for those curious) claims “Bitumen contains polycylic aromatic hyrdocardons(PAH’s) that are the most potent carcinogens known to science”.
The document uses a level of spin that you wouldn’t even see in a house of cards episode, let alone reality, to link Bitumen to cancer and on this basis believes this business should be shut down.
The reality is Bitumen (which also occurs naturally in the environment for the record) has been used by humans for approximately 8000 years.
We use Bitumen in our roads and construction every day, it’s a critical piece of construction material.
There is no proven harm to our community to continue to do so, but if the quarry operations are shut down, there is the undeniable facts that closure will result in an increase in our carbon footprint (with a substantial increase in requirement to truck the material from Queensland) and a massive dent to our local economy with the loss of 50 jobs and the numerous small businesses that provide services to the operation.
No industry in our shire should be held to ransom and used as a political tool for advancement. All industries (including quarries) must follow the stringent rules and regulations, and assuming they comply they should have the right to grow and prosper within our local economy.