The proposal involved increasing production at the existing Williams Quarry in Campania, Tasmania, which received council approval in July 2014 to extract up to nearly 5000m3 per annum. Crushing was not allowed as part of this consent.
According to application documents, the quarry operator, Craig Williams, gained “further insight” into the structure and characteristics of the site’s resource after commencing operations, which prompted him to seek approval to extract up to 10,000m3 per annum and crush up to 2500m3 of material.
“There has [been an increase in] demand for finer, more consistent-sized material and so the decision was made to upgrade to [larger] quantities and to allow crushing of some of the extracted material on site,” the project’s environmental assessment report explained.
The board of Environment Protection Authority Tasmania (EPA) provided conditional approval for the proposal in May this year. Despite this explicit endorsement, the Southern Midlands Council refused the application, deeming the quarry’s location “inappropriate” for production at such a scale.
“In council’s view, approving this quarry would have resulted in significant impacts on other landowners, and we were particularly concerned with imposing limitations on future use and development potential of so much land in other ownership,” Southern Midlands Mayor Tony Bisdee told Quarry.
He stated that the quarry’s proposed attenuation area encompassed too much neighbouring land, including the entirety of three titles and a large proportion of three others. He added that the quarry was located only 10m away from a property that had been earmarked for a Buddhist cultural park, which had been “widely discussed” in the media in recent times.
Some media reports noted the landowner’s threat to relocate the Buddhist park should the quarry be approved, due to fears that its buildings would “constantly be subjected to the influence of vibrations”. In a submission to council, the proponent – a religious group called Holy Tantra Esoteric Buddhism – stated that there was also a “possibility and danger of [building] collapse”.
The quarry operator was dismissive of these claims, with a supplement to the project’s environmental effects report stating that the risk to structures due to crusher vibrations would be “negligible”. The supplement additionally noted that there would be no blasting at the site and that the crusher would be contained within a pit of rock with high structural integrity.
Furthermore, the quarry operator pointed out in documents supporting its proposal that although public consultation had occurred, Holy Tantra had not yet lodged a development application for the park, adding that it was “inconsistent, unjustified and unreasonable for council to expect the quarry proponent to give any weight to a seemingly proposed development”.
Bisdee emphasised that while the relocation of the Buddhist cultural park would have been a “tremendous loss to the state’s economic development and cultural diversity”, it had not been the main focus for the council’s decision.
“There are five other landowners potentially significantly impacted by the quarry proposal, including the owners of the three titles completely covered by the quarry’s attenuation area, and council concluded that the imposts thrust upon all of them by approving this quarry would have been unfair,” he said.
It was reported that Williams has filed a code of conduct complaint against the council, believing it had shown bias against his development application.