Glenn Innes Severn Council purchased Glen Innes Aggregates Quarry in July 2011. It produces basalt aggregate from fresh rock for concrete production and bitumen road sealing. One of the pits in the quarry, when filled with water, is half the size of the Beardy Waters weir, which currently services the town.
Mayor Colin Price said the facility was bought at a bargain price, considering the water storage it now provides, and the cost of other storage alternatives. He said it was always anticipated that as only part of the existing operation was taken over (the cement and transportation segments of the former business were separately on-sold), there were some unknowns as to how the quarry would operate as a stand-alone publically owned entity.
It was always the intention to run it for a period before a business plan was put in place, but Price doesn?t expect it to ever be a huge money generator, given that its primary purpose is as a town water store. ?Every cubic metre quarried is another permanent cubic metre of water storage,? he said.
Water storage innovative thinking
Council general manager Hein Basson said the water storage solution demonstrated innovative thinking ?outside the box?. The aggregates business was the secondary function of the quarry.
Basson said concerns about the quarry?s financial sustainability are premature, but that the impending business plan will give good direction.
?I?m happy that it?s being run well at this time, although there are areas we can improve. The business plan will point things out and give a direction for the future, and from that we?ll have an action plan,? Basson added.
He said there had been no major changes in the financial prospects of the quarry recently, with major client Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) looking at new budgets with the change to a new financial year. Although RMS has its procurement processes, Basson believes Glen Innes Aggregates is competitive on price.
The council has given two reasons for the $277,000 budget shortfall: a decrease in operational sales resulting from a downturn in construction and Roads and Maritime (RMS) demand, and an increase in expenditure due to plant breakdowns and the hire of replacement plants. Basson said these factors were unforeseeable.
?With the information I have at this time it is going to be a hard slog to make the quarry profitable with the quality of rock, old machinery, and approved tonnage,? Basson explained. He said it could be difficult to get the tonnage increased as that would mean submitting a new development application together with an environmental impact statement, and the quarry?s proximity to town may be a problem.
The consultants currently assessing the quarry and working on a business plan have previously done the same for the Lismore quarry. It is expected that at least extracts of the plan will be ready for discussion at a July council meeting.
Sources: The Glen Innes Examiner, Glen Innes Severn Council