Marulan residents say the NSW Government should compel Gunlake Quarry to use the local rail network instead of their fragile roads before approving a proposed state significant expansion.
The quarry is seeking to increase its maximum daily truck movements by 50 per cent on Brayton Road, Ambrose Road, Red Hills Road and the Hume Highway to meet demand for its hard rock in Sydney, the Southern Highlands and Southern Tablelands as the NSW and Federal governments invest in more state infrastructure projects.
The application also proposes to remove Gunlake Quarry’s fixed annual tonnage limit of two million so the transport of saleable product is restricted by the approved truck movements only, and to extend the quarry life by 30 years.
A maximum of 490 trucks are already permitted to travel to and from the quarry in a 24-hour period between Monday and Saturday, which equates to about 20 trucks per hour.
Ken Wray from the Gunlake Quarries Community Consultative Committee (CCC), said speaking as a private citizen, that the proposed increase to a maximum of 750 daily truck movements “is an accident waiting to happen” and that “it will be locals who are the victims”.
While the quarry requires its truck drivers to maintain a speed limit of 80km/h and a distance of 300m from other vehicles along the haulage route, neither are enforceable and residents say both rules are often broken.
Residents also complain there are no overtaking lines or bays for school buses to safely pick up and drop off children on the haulage route; that trucks can easily stall and roll backwards on Red Hills Road; and that the route is narrow, windy and has blind spots in parts.
Adding to their frustrations is the noise, pollution, visual impacts and damage to local roads caused by the trucks.
The quarry previously funded the Ambrose Road bypass to stop trucks from frequently passing through the village centre, and widened the centre line along the haulage route.
The quarry also supports a mandatory reduction in the speed limit for all traffic along the haulage route from 100km/h to 80km/h.
However, residents say the quarry could resolve all concerns if it connected to the rail network already used by Boral and Holcim quarries in the Marulan district.
Kathy and Ron Switzer of Red Hills Road said they support the quarry as a business and the way it has engaged with the community, but are against any more trucks on the road. Their views are shared by many locals.
“Rail would be a far better solution, both environmentally and to the amenity of the town and its surrounds,” said Ms Switzer.
“These are also rural roads used by tractors, slower farming vehicles, before the already regular wildlife roadkill, fog and sun glare. Despite apparently low numbers of reported accidents to date, this is likely to increase as all traffic increases.”
The residents are also concerned about road safety as Marulan grows, with Goulburn Mulwaree Council planning to approve 355 new homes in the village in the next 15 years.
Jackie Harding, of Brayton Road, said given that Gunlake Quarry is paying $630,000-$640,000 in road contributions per year, it can afford to connect to the rail network.
Gunlake argues rail isn’t financially viable and that expansion by road would provide ongoing employment for 200 truck drivers either on a full-time or part-time basis.
However, Mr Wray argues Gunlake’s investigation into the feasibility of rail can’t be considered as independent.
“Gunlake paid for the only study that looks at rail as a serious option,” he said. “If the government says they have to move to rail, then they will have no option.”
Like Mr Wray, Ms Harding believes the government could also provide Gunlake Quarry with funding to extend the rail line at Holcim to its quarry.
However, these residents believe Gunlake’s application will be approved despite their efforts to write to their local council, members of parliament and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
They also fought the quarry’s 2017 application to increase production to two million tonnes per year and maximum daily truck movements to 590.
The quarry was originally approved in 2008 to produce 500,000 tonnes per day and transport product via a maximum of 200 truck movements per day.
The department objected the 2017 application based on the impact to local roads and the fact Gunlake hadn’t justified its use of road versus rail.
However, Gunlake appealed to the NSW Land and Environment Court and it was approved.
The current application sits with the court. However, that modification will only provide an interim solution while the Gunlake Quarry Continuation Project State Significant Development application is prepared, lodged and assessed with the department.