PORT STEPHENS SANDMINING
The Hon. I. COHEN
[6.27]: I am in receipt of a letter from Doug Lithgow, President of the Northern Parks and Playgrounds group, who is very concerned about the Ombudsman's exposure of Port Stephens Council's laxity and unreasonableness. The New South Wales Ombudsman's adverse report on the Port Stephens Council details an alarming train of events and unreasonable behaviour. In 1992 the Parks and Playgrounds movement became aware that the council was allowing the extraction of sand from dunes in old-growth woodland in the coastal zone, without an environmental impact statement or a valid consent. It has taken more than three years, the threat of legal action by the movement, questions in this House by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, representations by Bryce Gaudry, MP, an environmental impact statement and a public inquiry to bring the sand extraction under planning control. Moreover, the Ombudsman's investigation has been necessary to expose the extraordinary laxity on the part of the council. A public reserve, No. 170039 at Fullerton Cove, was removed. A World War II radar station disappeared and the high dune on which it stood was extracted without any action on the part of the council.
Wrong information was given to residents and to the movement. The council continued to state that the quarrying was within the conditions of consent, and claimed that it relied on a 1976 consent - even though council could not have given consent because sand extraction was prohibited in the area being quarried. Mr Lithgow's investigations also discovered that the 1976 consent was for a four-acre sandpit to produce up to 30,000 tonnes per annum from bare sand at the ocean front, almost a kilometre from the Boral operations. Port Stephens councillors must examine the reasons for the Ombudsman's adverse findings and ask why these things were allowed to happen without their knowledge?
I suggest that this type of situation will occur over and over again because of the mismanagement of State environmental planning policy 45. That issue is before Parliament at the present time. One example is Bastons quarry in the north of the State. I have seen sandmining on the banks of the Nepean that is completely out of context and has been carried out without proper environmental controls. The case I have cited is an example of the abuse by the mining industry, in one of its many aspects, of a planning policy. That abuse will be reflected throughout the State. That will lead to mining taking priority over any other land use in areas of dispute, and it is part of the Government's heavy-handed approach. It is amazing that this Government, which claims it is a green government with environmental credentials, allows these types of unreasonable mining to go ahead without proper control. I am fearful that this is only the thin edge of the wedge in terms of mining across the State, and that the Government will become a laughing stock. The tragedy is that mining will be a priority in many environmentally sensitive areas, despite the Government's empty rattling rhetoric.