Plant & Equipment

Study considers supply, demand of Greater Sydney

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment (NSW DPE) has commissioned industry consultants RW Corkery and Co (RWC) to undertake this study that includes a survey of quarry and concrete companies and face to face interviews with the stakeholders.

RWC’s principal, Rob Corkery, said the results would be used to inform strategic planning by the NSW Government for transport planning, including freight and distribution, extractive resource recognition and protection, and land use allocation in the Greater Sydney Region (GSR).

“The study’s purpose is to ascertain accurate estimates of the quantities of construction materials needed for housing, roads and infrastructure now, and over the next 20 years – including sources of supply and the transport routes and modes needed to deliver the materials,” Corkery said, adding that most quarry products are now sourced from outside the GSR.

Ecoroc Consulting Engineers principal Dugald Gray, who is assisting with the study, estimates around 600,000 tonnes per week of quarry products, including fine and coarse crushed aggregate, natural sand and road base materials, are currently flowing into or within the GSR to build the city’s dwellings, non-residential buildings, roads and infrastructure. Demand for construction materials in the GSR appears to have increased by 50 per cent over the past five years.

The study aims to establish an accurate supply profile for 2018 to forecast demand projections to 2036 and assessment of the supply-side constraints. Recycled aggregates from concrete construction and demolition waste are part of the study.

Future planning

The study is an offshoot of the GSR Plan released by the State Government in March 2018 that envisages Sydney as a “Metropolis of Three Cities”: the Western Parkland City, the Central River City and the Eastern Harbour City.

As the population of the GSR continues to grow, the accessibility and availability of construction materials has become critical for providing affordable housing, buildings, roads and other infrastructure.

{{image2-a:r-w:300}}“We need accurate baseline data so reliable future projections can be made to plan for the sustainable supply and flow of construction materials into the city,” Gray said.

“What counts is what gets counted,” he said. “If the planners undertaking the planning for the GSR rely on data which under-represents actual supply, then constrained resource availability and congested transport and freight routes are much more likely. This drives up the delivered costs of construction materials to the community when materials are transported inefficiently over longer distances.”

“As the city grows, there will be more building and construction work which will create ongoing demands from existing extractive resource precincts,” Corkery said, adding that the increasing distance of quarries from the GSR increases road transport costs including problems of congestion – itself compounded by an increase in population, commuter and freight traffic.

“We know the origin of the quarry materials for GSR and have an idea of the big picture,” Corkery acknowledged, “but we know much less about actual quantities of key products and at what rates they are transported by roads, rail and sea and distributed into the GSR. Thus, the need to consult with the industry.”

“Once we have the numbers, we can aggregate the data by planning district to preserve confidentiality, to evaluate demand versus supply shortfalls, hotspots, transport bottlenecks and the like, for Sydney’s three cities under the GSR plan,” Gray said.

He said the NSW DPE was seeking the best information to plan for increased housing affordability and better roads and freight networks to service Greater Sydney.

“This brings up three questions: Do we have enough extractive resources? Do the planning approvals enable quarries, concrete and asphalt plants to efficiently satisfy daily demand in Greater Sydney? If not, then what improvements can be made to the existing situation?” Gray said.

Future Reliance on resource feeder areas

Corkery said that as cities grow and local extractive resources are depleted or sterilised by competing land uses, reliance on more distant extractive resources is necessary – beyond the boundaries of the city.

“Most growing cities in Australia and worldwide face this problem,” he said. “In the GSR study, the geological provinces beyond Greater Sydney are referred to as feeder areas. There is straight away the social and planning dilemma of how to align and balance the needs and concerns of local communities where the raw materials are produced with those of the distant city communities that consume the construction materials.”

Corkery said most of the hard rock quarries and much of the fine sand were now found outside Sydney and most of the aggregate was transported from outside – from the north, the west, the south and the south-west.

“We need to look at the total reserve inventories of these feeder areas to see whether other geological resources need to be made available for future generations,” he said. “This requires the planning approval process for existing and any new quarries to think locally and think regionally. It’s never an easy task.”

Apart from planning approvals, there is then the issue of conditions relating to transport routes and the highly regulated daily and hourly timing and number of truck movement, from quarries.

In addition to trucks, construction materials are also brought in by rail and some shipping is planned to recommence.

“The study will consider both rail and port infrastructure, including land availability for offloading and stockholding facilities, which reduces the demands on road transport from feeder areas into the city,” Gray said.

“A lot of infrastructure has to be made available or built to use rail to transport the construction materials but it makes eminent sense for large resources that service Greater Sydney, provided quarries can be reasonably connected by rail to the three cities,” he said.

The hard rock quarries of Peppertree and Lynwood in the Marulan area to the southwest of the GSR are recently established examples.

Corkery said that any sensitive information obtained through the survey and interviews would be treated confidentially and diligently, and RWC would aggregate the information into each of the Sydney planning districts to protect site-specific confidentiality and company-specific information.

Only aggregated data, he said, would be included in the study, due by late October 2018.

RWC is keen to engage with industry participants to ensure the most reliable current quantity estimates, weekly rates of supply, supply-side constraints and demand forecasts are prepared for the study.

For further information, contact Rob Corkery, RWC, tel 02 9985 8511, email or Dugald Gray, Ecoroc, tel 0412 394 090, email

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