Between a rock and a court case: Bentley fracking protesters tackle megaquarry

Susanna Freymark

Less than a decade ago, Gate A became a key site in the Bentley Blockade against coal seam gas mining.

In 2014, the community banded together and famously halted the move to frack for coal seam gas in the valley. The Bentley Blockade protest attracted thousands of people to the cause.

Residents say the valley is under threat again with the expansion of an old quarry.

Directly opposite Gate A is the quarry in question.

The people who fought the gas industry are fighting to preserve the Bentley valley.

The community group Beyond Bentley – Our Sustainable Future has launched legal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court against Bentley Quarry owner Rob McKenzie to stop the operation of what they are calling a mega-quarry.

Group member and former Lismore mayor Ros Irwin said the industrialisation of an area like Bentley should concern everyone.

“The quarry is huge and will leave a scar on the environment,” Dr Irwin said.

“If we want the region  to be seen as sustainable, people have to fight for it.”

The rail trail and agritourism are far better ways to promote the region, she said.

The people who fought the gas industry are fighting to preserve the Bentley valley.

Bentley landowner Rosemary Joseph said residents were astounded when the quarry operators bought the land and fired up an old quarry that hadn’t operated since the 1970s.

“We told Richmond Valley Council about it but they said the quarry operator insisted there was always a quarry on the land and it had continuing use rights to take around 2000–3000 cubic metres of materials per year. We were absolutely stunned, because it is just not true,” Ms Joseph said.

Bentley locals will testify in the Land and Environment Court that any use of the land for a quarry was abandoned decades ago.

Launching a court case doesn’t come cheap but the Bentley residents are prepared to do whatever it takes.

“Our planning laws need to be upheld, and without cooperation from Richmond Valley Council or the operator of the quarry, our small community group has been forced to turn to the Land and Environment Court,” Dr Irwin said.

Ms Joseph said things had got out of control at the Bentley Quarry.

An aerial view of the Bentley Quarry as it is now. Photo: Contributed

“We were told they were only going to extract up to 3000 cubic metres a year which would involve around two truck movements per week. Now the quarry is extracting way more than that and on some days we are seeing 30 or more truck movements per day on our rural road network. It’s really out of control and it is not lawful.”

The DA for the quarry expansion seeks approval to extract 300,000 tonnes each year for 30 years.

Ms Joseph said that means 100 truck movements a day on the Lismore to Kyogle road.

“Then in 30 years a permanently disfigured landscape will be left behind. It’s just not on,” she said.

The case will be heard in the Land and Environment Court on February 11.

A decision on the DA on the expansion of the quarry at Bentley will be made by the Northern Regional Planning Panel.

The DA is on exhibition with Richmond Valley Council until February 1. Click here.

Have your say on the DA by submitting a detailed response on that webpage.

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