Quarry plan brings out Action Jackson

Kids count: Jackson Gorfine has objected to a controversial sand quarry on Port Stephens Council land that he says will have an impact on children and koalas.
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JACKSON Gorfine, 8, had a few things to say to theDepartment of Planning in a letter about Port Stephens Council’s controversial plan to make millions of dollars from a Williamtown sand quarry near his house.

He objected to the plan, he wrote. So did his sister Bronte, 4. And if his baby brother, 18 months, could speak, he would object as well, Jackson said.

“I love our bush and I don’t want to see it go,” said Jackson, whose letter is one of 60 submissionsafter an environmental impact statement on the project was put on public exhibition.

The Department of Planning will hold a public meeting at Tomago onFebruary 1 because of the volume of submissions, the majority objections, and after a meeting between department secretary Carolyn McNally and Jackson’s mother Rhianna Wynnon Thursday.

Quarry lease holder Williamtown Sand Syndicate has proposed removing 600,000 tonnes of sand per year for 15 years from the 53.9 hectare Cabbage Tree Road site that is owned by Port Stephens Council.

The quarry area has already been reduced by 15 hectares because of concerns for groundwater and endangered ecological communities.The quarry is necessary because Sydney sand quarries are largely exhausted and eight million tonnes of sand per year is required to fill the needs of Sydney alone, the environmental impact statement said.

Ms Wynn described the council’s tender process as “incredible”, after the council rejected a preferred tenderer to operate the quarry in favour of a Nathan Tinkler-backed company, and subsequently approveda lease transfer to Williamtown Sand Syndicate.

The council expects to make up to $20 million from the project.It has argued the quarry will provide funds to benefit the community.

Objections on environmental grounds relating to water and air quality impacts became even more pronounced after the Williamtown RAAF Base water contamination scandal became public in September, Ms Wynn said. The quarry is within the contamination red zone.

“We know trees act as pumps that keep the water table stable, but what we’re talking about here is the removal of trees and sand hills that are protecting residents from the impacts of the RAAF Base. Contamination from the Base is coming in ground and surface water. Are we going to have more run-off because of this quarry plan?” she said.

Jackson Gorfine’s submission to the Department of Planning is short and sweet. He has reminded the department that he is 8, and if the quarry is approved it will operate for his childhood, into his adolescence and continue until he is in his mid 20s.

“I have an 18-month-old brother and a 4-year-old sister who adore our bush and horses, and they would hate it if they went away. I hate the idea and I hope it does not go on.”

He finished by reminding the department the bush that could be destroyed to make way for the sand quarry is habitat for the area’s koalas.

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