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Adventure experiences touted for disused quarry

Hornsby Shire’s councillors recently passed a unanimous vote to transform the Hornsby Quarry – a former hard rock quarry that began operations in the 1900s – into a recreational space.

Past suggestions on how to reclaim the quarry, which is located northwest of Sydney, have included construction of a state-of-the-art sports facility hub and the building of a skyscraper in the base of the pit. {{image2-A:R-w:250}}

A study prepared by Clouston Associates that was discussed at the recent council meeting found that there was an opportunity to complement the quarry’s “natural and intrinsic qualities” with unique recreation experiences.

“Hornsby Shire Council have the chance to create a regional attraction that could have long-term state, national and international appeal whilst also meeting the needs of the local community,” the study stated. 

It was said that the quarry’s “bushland setting, changes in height, water body and rock walls” would particularly suit adventure-style recreation activities. These could provide an ongoing financial return to the council while attracting visitors to the region. Zip-lining (a large-scale flying fox), rope climbing and abseiling were among the examples of what could be developed at the site.

The council also noted the study’s identification of a number of areas that could be developed into sportsgrounds, although its meeting minutes stated the “steep topography of the site, the required high level of landfill and associated cost of creating this landform and the diminution of the visual quality of the dramatic landscape setting that would result” would need to be considered.

Spoil transport options
Plans to convert Hornsby Quarry into a recreation area would hinge upon the council’s ability to successfully import one million cubic metres (m3) of spoil to fill and form the site. The council identified the proposed NorthConnex road tunnelling project as a potential source for this spoil but the method of transport was still under discussion.

The filling of Hornsby Quarry has been a point of contention with the community for many years, with residents concerned that the transportation of spoil would lead to excessive truck movements and traffic congestion.

Earlier this year, some local residents put forward the QFill proposal – a plan to move trucks underground by building twin tunnels that could later be converted into a public road. At the time, Hornsby Mayor Steve Russell showed strong support for the proposition but he recently told Quarry that both the state government and NorthConnex had since ruled the option out. 

“I was supportive of the twin tunnels and still would love to see this project proceed but unfortunately it seems to be cost-prohibitive and nobody has the funds available,” he explained.

The use of a conveyor system, such as the one used to transport spoil from Brisbane’s Legacy Way tunnels to the Mount Coot-tha Quarry in 2012, had also been found to be uneconomic.

Minimising community disruption
At its recent meeting, the council determined that the best way to optimise the quarry site for recreation purposes while managing the impact of trucks on the community would be to partially fill the quarry with two million m3 of spoil. Only half of this would be transported by road – ideally from the NorthConnex project – with the other half to be generated on-site. {{image3-A:R-w:250}}

“At this stage the only option is to bring [spoil] in by truck, hence we are looking at only receiving the minimum amount of soil to allow rehabilitation,” Russell said. 

The council meeting minutes stated that the minimum one million m3 of spoil could be delivered to site within a relatively short two-year timeframe in order to minimise community disruption. Based on this timeline, it was anticipated that the quarry could be formed, equipped with recreation facilities and opened to the public in approximately five years.

A spokesperson for New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services confirmed that Hornsby Quarry was one of several sites that had been identified as a potential destination for NorthConnex’s spoil but stated that the tunnelling project was yet to be approved and that the final decision on spoil would be determined by the project contractor.

The spokesperson added that an expected date for NorthConnex’s environmental impact statement approval was not yet known.

State government support welcomed
Russell said that the local Member of Parliament Matt Kean had contributed his support to the council’s efforts to rehabilitate the quarry.

“Matt is a great advocate for the council on the problems faced in remediating the quarry and we are working very closely with him to find a suitable solution,” Russell said. “The quarry should not be a problem for the residents of Hornsby alone. The products were used state-wide and I think the state government has a responsibility to help in the remediation process.”

More reading
Industry calls for better spoil management
Quarry tunnel a ‘golden opportunity’
Council wins valued quarry fight
Sporty end for Hornsby Quarry
Architect proposes skyscraper in pit
Residents in arms against quarry reclamation

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