Barro Group had applied to extract more than one million tonnes of materials per annum from the 23ha site in Beerburrum, near the Glass House Mountains.
The hard rock quarry has the capacity to supply construction materials to meet the growing needs of the local community, according to Ian Ridoutt, the Queensland general manager at Barro Group.
In 2017, 60.5 per cent of the Sunshine Coast Council population lived in the southeast corner of the Sunshine Coast, which has a land area of just 13.5 per cent of the council’s total territory. It is estimated that by 2031, this population rate will rise to 83 per cent.
As part of the plan to deal with this growth, the Sunshine Coast Council has endorsed the Sunshine Coast Regional Economic Development Strategy (REDS), which includes significant investment in infrastructure development.
Ridoutt believes Burrum Quarry should be part of this responsible planning. “What I tried to show the councillors was that they have a future plan, which is a good plan, but they've got to actually resource that plan, otherwise they get dysfunctional effects,” he told Quarry. “There's a shortfall [of hard rock products in the local area] at the moment and the demand is about to increase.”
He pointed out that when Hanson’s Glasshouse Quarry, which is only 6km away, had to stop sales for a number of weeks before Christmas because it had reached the amount of material it is permitted to despatch under the terms of its consent. During that period, material had to be brought in from distant locations.
“If that happens in the longer term, then the cost of infrastructure, housing and all development goes through the roof,” Ridoutt said.
The only other local quarry currently supplying quality hard rock products to the southeast corner of the Sunshine Coast is Holcim’s Sunrock Quarry, which according to Ridoutt, is “very busy”.
Cr Rick Baberowski said the council’s decision to refuse the planning application was based on information that existing Sunshine Coast quarries are licensed to extract 6.65 million tonnes of product a year, yet are extracting between two million and three million tonnes.
“I’m really pleased with the outcome, not only for the environment but also for the region,” Baberowski told the Sunshine Coast Daily. “I think we do not need another quarry to add to the 10 (hard rock quarries) that we already have.”
Ridoutt dismissed this reasoning as disingenuous. “That's a totally misleading comment because whilst that may be the available extraction, some of those quarries can't supply to those markets,” he told Quarry. “Some of them are a long way away from the south east corner markets.
“Some of them haven't got plant and equipment capable of extracting to those types of limits or don't have the quality of materials. That adding up of theoretical capacity doesn't give you the right information for that particular market area; in that particular market area there is already a shortfall.
“It's well demonstrated. The Hanson quarry had to close for sales for a number of weeks before Christmas because they had reached their quota.”
Appealing the decision
The assessment process – from the time it was lodged to the time the council handed down its decision – took 28 months. At the end of that process, council planning officers recommended that councillors should approve the development with conditions.
Ridoutt said the ruling was “disappointing”. He pointed out that the land is state-owned and is reserved for forestry purposes, which includes quarrying. “The councillors have ignored the expert analysis and recommendations undertaken and made by their own council officers.”
The site is an existing quarry, so drilling and blasting, and screening and crushing, has been carried out there since the 1970s. Under Barro Group’s proposal, these operations would be significantly expanded.
“The site is a state key resource area, so the state has actually nominated it as an important resource for the future development of Queensland and has given it special planning strength,” Ridoutt told Quarry. “The Sunshine Coast Council, in their own planning scheme, identified the site for the extractive industry. There's nothing more that you could get to say that the site should be used for quarrying purposes.”
Ridoutt concedes that it is very difficult to get approval for extractive projects, which is only compounded by the fact that there are local council elections next year.
“The community need quarry products and the associated local economic and employment opportunities but the decision makers don’t want to take responsibility for approving extractive projects, it is easier to leave the those decisions to courts. I think we've got caught up in politics again,” he said.