Australia

REVEALED: How the sand mine battle was won

Celebrations are continuing for residents who spent the past half a decade fighting a proposed sand mine at one of the region’s major entry points, but another battle is looming.

Proponents of a 105ha sand mine planned to be developed at Forest Glen last week withdrew their appeal against Sunshine Coast Council’s refusal.

It marked the end of a five-year battle by local residents against the proposal, who feared a loss of visual amenity, the impact of flooding of the site on Eudlo Creek and Maroochy River, and local traffic issues with increased truck movements would be brought on by the project.

Maroochydore Sands Pty Ltd filed a notice of discontinuance in the Planning and Environment Court last week, bringing to an end its bid to extract an average of 200,000 tonnes a year over 30 years from the site at Eudlo Flats Rd and Maroochydore Rd.

Aerial view of the site where the Forest Glen sand mine was proposed.

Aerial view of the site where the Forest Glen sand mine was proposed.

Eudlo Creek Neighbours Inc and Stop the Maroochy Sand Mine spokesman Mike Perritt said the community had raised between $60,000 and $70,000 for the fight, and they were ecstatic at the result.

He said they were well aware of the need to work with the State Government to convince them not to designate the site as a Key Resource Area.

After four years and seven months fighting, almost four years of that in courtrooms, Mr Perritt said it had been an enormous release of pressure when the notice was lodged.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride,” he said.

“We just don’t need it.”

He said council’s legal team had been “magnificent” throughout the fight, and he felt they had gotten stronger as the matter went on.

Further development in the area since the battle began, including an over-50s village nearby, would only strengthen the community’s position, Mr Perritt said.

“You could still put a golf course in there,” he said.

Opposing the sand mine is Mike Perritt.

Opposing the sand mine is Mike Perritt.

He said he thought council should acquire the site through its environment levy and either allow the public access, or leave it as open space and a crucial wildlife corridor.

We’ve looked back at the community’s fight, for some of the key moments in the massive battle.

TIMELINE OF THE WOULD-BE SAND MINE:

FEBRUARY, 2015:

An application is formally lodged with Sunshine Coast Council by Maroochydore Sands Pty Ltd for a 105ha sand extraction development at Malones Rd, Eudlo Flats Rd, Maroochydore Rd, Forest Glen.

SEPTEMBER, 2015:

Public notification and consultation period begins on the proposed development.

OCTOBER, 2015:

Community concern continues to grow about the proposed development, as the consultation period continues.

More than 200 people gathered at a public meeting, while nearby school Montessori International College also weighs in, with parents gathering.

Dr Tonia Douglas, a contributor to the World Health Organisation and consultant at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, starts a change.org petition against the proposal, as the consultation period wrapped up in late-October.

OCTOBER, 2015:

Some environmental figures in the region play down the impacts of the proposal, while others raise concerns about the risk associated with acid sulfate soils.

Then-Buderim MP Steve Dickson revealed he’d been briefed on the proposal months earlier, but had been assured community consultation would be above and beyond requirements.

Then-Deputy Premier Jackie Trad confirms the furore surrounding the application, and what the community felt was a lack of information about it, had prompted the State Government to review its community consultation processes for development applications.

OCTOBER, 2015:

The notification period is extended to allow residents time to get their submissions in.

Meanwhile Maroochydore Sands director Michael Mullins declared the “sand extraction site” a more sustainable and community-friendly project.

He said the proposed development would be “about as dangerous as a day on the beach”.

DECEMBER, 2015:

Maroochydore Sands director Michael Mullins apologises for releasing an incorrect statement regarding State Government approvals for the project.

In November he’d released a statement declaring he had State Government approval for the proposed operation’s “best practice” acid sulfate management plan.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection confirmed it was still assessing an application, but clarified it wasn’t required to approve best-practice plans.

Mr Mullins said the media release issued had been incorrect, explaining their experts failed to pick up on the “factually incorrect statement” and apologised to stakeholders for any confusion.

Maroochydore Sands Pty Ltd director Michael Mullins. Photo: Scott Sawyer

Maroochydore Sands Pty Ltd director Michael Mullins. Photo: Scott Sawyer

MAY, 2016:

The Stop the Maroochy Sand Mine group mobilises in numbers, as Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus attends, vowing to do all he could at a Federal level to assist, and push for an intervention via an Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act referral.

LNP candidate for Fairfax, now MP Ted O’Brien, also vowed to contact then-Environment Minister Greg Hunt, as fundraising starts in earnest.

OCTOBER, 2016:

The Daily breaks the story that Maroochydore Sands directors Michael Mullins and Trenton Clark were part of a foreign trade mission to China with Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson, prior to lodging a development application.

Mr Mullins and Mr Clark attended as directors of Valesco Capital, a company they founded specialising in investment immigration in the building materials sector.

The company specialised in opportunities for foreign investors under 132 and 188 Visas to invest in Australian quarry sites.

Mr Mullins and Mr Clark also established Future Quarry Resources in 2011, its aim to “identify, secure and gain approval of greenfield quarry and sand assets”.

The pair were also listed as contacts for Quarries Australia, a company looking to link foreign investors to sand and aggregate quarries in Australia while helping them qualify for permanent residency.

The pair were part of a State Government delegation to China in April, 2013, alongside Cr Jamieson and about 40 other business figures.

A Sunshine Coast Council spokeswoman said Cr Jamieson first met Mr Mullins and Mr Clark on the trade tour but the Mayor “does not recall there being any detailed discussions around this sand extraction proposal at that time”.

“The Mayor was not involved in any discussions with investors in relation to this project on that mission,” the spokeswoman said.

Sand mine opponents attend the Nambour Council Chambers. Councillors vote for the proposed mine.

Sand mine opponents attend the Nambour Council Chambers. Councillors vote for the proposed mine.

OCTOBER, 2016:

Councillors state their positions, with many undecided, ahead of the all-critical debate and vote on the development application.

OCTOBER 13, 2016:

Masses of opponents packed out the Nambour Council Chambers to voice their concerns and make their presence felt by councillors, and it worked.

Councillors voted 7-4 in favour of a motion for refusal of the application, sparking scenes of jubilation by locals in attendance.

Councillors Ted Hungerford, Jason O’Pray, Jenny McKay, Christian Dickson, John Connolly, Peter Cox and Rick Baberowski all voted to support Cr Hungerford’s motion for refusal.

Councillors Mark Jamieson, Tim Dwyer, Greg Rogerson and Steve Robinson all voted against Cr Hungerford’s motion.

OCTOBER 28, 2016:

Developers lodge their appeal with the Planning and Environment Court, sparking the next stage of the fight.

PROTEST: About 200 people gathered in Nambour to appeal to councillors to reject a sand mine proposal.

PROTEST: About 200 people gathered in Nambour to appeal to councillors to reject a sand mine proposal.

NOVEMBER, 2016:

Community members fighting against the proposal are dealt a blow when it’s revealed the State Government is set to have the site declared a state-significant sand resource.

The Daily revealed the Key Resource Area designation, under an amended State Planning Policy, was based on an assessment of data supplied by the developer’s consultants, and no physical assessment had been undertaken by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

The timing sparked outrage, as residents were gearing up to begin the appeal, and documents unearthed later had some fearing tacit approval given by the State Government.

MAY, 2017:

Questions are raised about the need for the proposed sand mine, after figures obtained and reported by the Daily showed there was enough designated sand resources in the region to construct about 20 million new homes.

Both the developer and the State Government argued there was a desperate need for more sand resources in the region for housing and major infrastructure.

MAY, 2017:

A win for the local residents’ groups, with then-Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning Jackie Trad confirming the site would not be declared a state-significant sand resource while legal proceedings are ongoing.

Maroochydore Sands Pty Ltd director Michael Mullins addressed sand extraction pit concerns. Photo: Scott Sawyer

Maroochydore Sands Pty Ltd director Michael Mullins addressed sand extraction pit concerns. Photo: Scott Sawyer

FEBRUARY, 2018:

As the legal battle drags on, residents wait for further testing of the site by the developers.

Community groups were bunkering down for what they expected would be another 6-12 months, and fundraising efforts continued.

MAY, 2019:

Council’s legal team remain committed to defending the refusal, despite allowing a minor change to the proposal, shifting from a maximum of 300,000 tonnes to 225,000 tonnes extracted a year, and from wet to dry processing.

JUNE, 2019:

Community concerns are laid bare in court documents filed as part of the appeal.

Concerns centred mainly around the impacts on road use, flooding, noise, dust and effluent pollution and the effects of the changes on nearby waterways.

Mining in smaller cells, and the increased truck movements, as well as the shift from wet to dry operations had raised dust pollution concerns.

Eudlo Creek Neighbours also argued that proposed bunding around extraction cells as part of the changes would increase the flood risk and impacts on Eudlo Flats Rd.

MARCH, 2020:

The Daily reveals the amount of access afforded the developers throughout the fight.

Affidavits filed in the Supreme Court showed Maroochydore Sands Pty Ltd directors Michael Mullins and Trenton Clark had several meetings, calls and email exchanges with State Government ministers and department officials over a year, as they sought to have the Forest Glen site declared a state-significant sand resource.

The applicants threatened to take the matter to the Supreme Court and seek a writ forcing the State to “follow its own legislative framework” and designate the key resource area.

The ensuing Supreme Court application was dismissed on December 19.

JULY 3, 2020:

Confirmation comes that the proponents have filed a notice of discontinuance for the whole of proceedings with the Planning and Environment Court, sparking celebrations in the community.

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