The operator, Gunnedah Quarry Products, will contribute $32,000 towards koala research being conducted by the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage. This is as part of an “enforceable undertaking” it entered into with the state’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
The EPA’s regional manager for Armidale, Simon Smith, explained that an enforceable undertaking was just one of a number of tools the EPA could use to achieve environmental compliance, with other options including formal warnings, penalty notices, mandatory audits and prosecutions.
“Enforceable undertakings are often imposed when there is a serious breach of licence requirements to ensure measures are promptly put in place to redress any environmental harm and obtain a good and lasting benefit for the environment,” he said.
Gunnedah Quarry Products was penalised after an EPA investigation found it had exceeded the 100,000-tonne annual extraction limit at its Mary’s Mount gravel quarry in Mullaley.
“Between May 2013 and 2014, Gunnedah Quarry extracted a total 166,563 tonnes of material. That’s 66,653 tonnes in excess of the licence limit. This was not in accordance with the licence conditions,” Smith said.
“The EPA believes that the incident had the potential to cause environmental harm, particularly in the form of noise and dust emissions. Gunnedah Quarry Products’ management has acknowledged the EPA’s concerns and entered into an enforceable undertaking.”
According to the EPA, the koala research project will “help identify and protect critical linkages and help to make sure future planting programs are most effective for the koala population”.
In addition to tracking koalas around the Mary’s Mount area with GPS collars and analysing community koala sighting data, the research will also involve tree and habitat surveys to look at how the native marsupials use the landscape. The project will also study how koalas move through modified landscapes and the “connectivity” with known koala population centres to the east in Gunnedah and to the west in the Pilliga Forests.
“This project will provide a good environmental outcome and will benefit the long-term conservation of the koalas in the area,” Smith said.