A number of Blackall range locals and community groups are concerned about the potential impacts of Sunshine Coast Council’s plans to lease its quarry business to a commercial operator from mid-2023, as the council explores options through an Expression of Interest process.
Gathering for its ordinary meeting on 8 December 2022, the Sunshine Coast Council resolved that leasing its Dulong and Image Flat quarry business and operating sites to a commercial operator would be the preferred solution to optimise the performance of these assets.
The council is aiming for a 10-year lease plus two, two-year options and plans to release Expression of Interest packages later this month, with submissions due 12 weeks later in April.
The decision, according to a Sunshine Coast Council spokesperson, followed a recent review of the council’s quarry business and operating sites to identify “options and actions to improve the performance of this activity.”
“As a result of the review of the potential options, it was proposed that the preferred solution would be to lease the quarry business and operating sites to a commercial operator to optimise the performance of these assets and their continuing contribution to the region as a sustainable source of supply of essential construction material,” the spokesperson told Quarry.
Image Flat Quarry has been in operation since 1959 as a source of construction rock (rhyolite). The Dulong Quarry is used for extraction of high-quality basalt rock used in asphalt and sealing aggregate for road surfacing.
The quarry business has been impacted by the closure of the asphalt plant and is competing with other privately owned facilities with the capability of larger scale vertical integration and capacity for capital investment.
“To find a commercial operator to manage the quarry business and sites, a two-stage procurement process will involve an initial Expression of Interest to market, seeking proposals from suitably qualified and experienced operators.
“Following the Expression of Interest council may proceed to undertake a closed tender process with the preferred tenders ,who will be positively assessed against agreed criteria and in line with council’s procurement policy. The closed tender may involve a single-phase tender or multi phased tender,” the spokesperson said.
“The potential commercial operator will be managed by council under the terms and conditions of a contract, considering the community impacts and benefits. Achieving the key benefits will provide a focus for the assessment process undertaken through the proposed Expression of Interest and subsequent closed tender process and the selection of the preferred operator.”
The decision, however, has worried a group of residents who are concerned about lack of transparency from the council.
Worried residents have formed the Dulong Quarry Action Group, with 50 people from the immediate area attending the group’s first public meeting earlier this month.
Dulong local and group spokesperson, Anne Veivers, said people are frustrated there’s been no community engagement and an inadequate amount of clear communication from Council on the matter to date.
“We believe the commercial operator will be bound to work within all current operational restrictions, but we’re unclear on those details, and despite spending weeks seeking information from council to address our apprehensions, nothing has yet been provided,” Veivers said.
“People have expressed valid concerns about dust and associated health impacts, noise, road damage, road safety, environmental impacts to nearby waterways and native animals, negative effects on property prices, lifestyle and more,” she added.
Image Flat Quarry is located at 178 Image Flat Road, Image Flat. This main quarry operations site is where blasting, rock extraction, crushing, and weigh bridge operations occur.
Dulong Quarry is located on Sherwell Road, Dulong. This is a smaller quarry site where blasting and rock extraction occur and product from this site is transported by truck to Image Flat Quarry for further processing.
The Sunshine Coast Council spokesperson confirmed that the council is conscious of the proximity of these two quarries to residential areas, and that the community will be consulted before a final decision is made.
“Council values the community and long-term support of our neighbours at Image Flat and Dulong Quarries,” the spokesperson said.
“We understand that, in looking at different and new operating models, this level of change and uncertainty may cause community concern. We are committed to being a good neighbour and will seek to provide the community an update and receive their feedback as we work through the process in order to explore options,” the spokesperson added.
Other concerns raised by the community was around the frequency of blasts at the Dulong Quarry and wether it would increase to cater for additional extraction capacity.
At Dulong Quarry, blasting takes place up to two times per year. At Image Flat Quarry, blasting may occur several times per year.
“Blasts [at Dulong Quarry] are currently limited to two times per year, but we don’t know if that will continue or what the parameters on those blasts will be going forwards,” Veivers said.
“We believe the minimum extraction amount will be 50,000 tonnes of material per annum, but we’re not aware of any upper limits so for all we know it could increase to a million tonnes with hundreds of truck movements per day,” she added.
The council spokesperson did not confirm or deny these concerns, but noted that neighbouring properties are given prior warning of upcoming blast activities.
“Blasts are only fired between the hours of 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday,” the spokesperson said.
Finally, the spokesperson reiterated that the decision by the council is still at early stages.
“Please note this is an early discovery stage. Council has not made a decision, rather it is exploring options through the Expression of Interest process.”