Lismore City Council has agreed to release a $1500 maintenance bond it had initially intended to retain and put towards the repair of two road intersections.
Champions Quarry was required to upgrade the road intersections in 2014 in accordance with conditions set out by the New South Wales Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DPI) when it approved the business’s expansion project in August 2012.
The operator of the quarry, which is located in Tuckurimba, south of Lismore, was given consent to increase the operation’s annual extraction limit from about 63,000 tonnes to 250,000 tonnes, provided the intersections were improved to ensure the roads could support the corresponding increase in truck movements.
According to the council, “what was initially portrayed as a simple job [that would take between two and three weeks] took almost five months to complete” and the roads began showing signs of “failure” within two months.
Given the DPI’s consent conditions required that the road upgrades be carried out “to the satisfaction of council”, Lismore City Council advised in March 2015 that it would not be releasing the maintenance bond.
The council planned to claim the bond as a contribution towards the roads’ repair work, which was estimated to cost almost $12,000.
However, the quarry operator denied responsibility for the condition of the roads, blaming the council’s “substandard existing pavements” instead. He added that if the council refused to release the bond, he would consider taking legal action.
Noting that the operator had “a recent history of initiating expensive litigation in relation to council decisions and actions”, the council decided to reconsider its position, even though the operator had argued his earlier cases “without much success”.
In considering the issue, the council acknowledged that there was no guarantee the DPI would enforce the quarry operator’s compliance with the conditions of consent. Furthermore, the council had been unable to specifically determine what had caused the roads’ failure.
“Many opinions have been made regarding the cause of the failure and no particular cause has been specifically identified,” the meeting minutes stated. “Suffice to say there is potentially a series of causes compounding the situation … Council could easily incur legal and professional costs of $20,000+ pursuing compliance while the defective works remain unattended to and in a state of disrepair.”
Last week, the council voted 8-2 that the bond be refunded to Champions Quarry, with the road rehabilitation costs to be drawn from the council’s existing budget allocations.
“Although council has options to pursue compliance, retain bonds and recover costs, and there may be reasonable prospects of pursing or defending such action, providing a trigger for the proponent to initiate another round of litigation against council is not considered to be in the public interest,” the council meeting minutes concluded. “Council needs to take action and move on from this issue rather than enable the matter to become protracted.”
The council indicated it would still be notifying the DPI that Champion Quarry’s roadworks had not been completed to the council’s satisfaction.
This is not the first time Lismore City Council has been lumped with road repair costs. As previously reported by Quarry, the council reportedly paid about $300,000 last year to resurface roads in a neighbouring region after asphalt supplied by the council-owned Blakebrook Quarry was found to be defective. A council spokesperson later told Quarry that the product’s inconsistencies had likely been due to the asphalt plant’s age.