Holcim quarry light dispute set to flare up

JUST weeks after striking a compromise, a Towrang community group says giant lights from a nearby quarry are about to get “a whole lot worse.”

Quarry company Holcim has been installing lights for its multi-million dollar Lynwood Quarry at Marulan as part of a looming 24-hour operation.

Some Towrang residents are up in arms over the impact.

Weeks ago they were appeased by the company’s plans to tone down the glare and plant a large eco-park as a buffer and natural screen. Holcim management and Goulburn MP Pru Goward had both endorsed the measures, according to residents.

But tensions flared again at a meeting last week.

Towrang Progress Association member Geoff Pearson said the only “concrete” assurance Holcim gave was for more lights.

“Steve Mossie, Holcim’s general manager for Aggregates NSW, advised that ‘there will be a lot more lights being installed over coming months.

Holcim plans to attach lights up and down all conveyor systems at the plant,’” Mr Pearson said.

“Many of these will rise to elevations much higher than the current light poles that are causing local, and not so local, residents so much trouble. The impact of lights on the Towrang Valley experienced to date is guaranteed to get a lot worse, not better.”

Towrang residents, particularly those around Narelle Lane, 8km south of the quarry, have complained about the lights. Mr Pearson said the valley was “lit up like the SCG.”

Some 91 are planned, (excluding the conveyor systems), according to documentation.

The company has been working with the community to find a solution. This included removing some light bulbs as an experiment and installing 7cm metal strip screens.

Mr Pearson, for one, is not convinced.

“These so called screens have, not surprisingly, made absolutely zero impact on the light damage to the valley,” he said.

“One really has to ask ‘Are these guys serious?’ It also brings into serious doubt their suggestions that they would remove some of the unnecessary poles and reduce the height of those that remain.

“One gets the very strong sense that Holcim is full of warm words and assurances but very little genuine intent to take any real action to resolve this ongoing and escalating problem.”

He said Towrang residents pressed Holcim for over six months for the Lynwood Quarry’s full lighting plan. Mr Pearson maintained that the company only provided a small part of this to the group for assessment by independent consultants the community had commissioned.

“It is disappointing that only now after we have spent considerable amounts of time and money we learn we were not given all we asked for. Holcim’s credibility is clearly on the line,” Mr Pearson said.

He has also rejected claims that Holcim had planted 100,000 trees. Rather, the company had planted 4600 trees, “half of which have died. Mr Pearson said the seedlings were planted well below road level and were of little value in providing a screen, even in 35 years, as projected.

“It was a cheap and pointless token effort,” he said.

Mr Pearson told the Post that Holcim had promised to provide the community with a copy of their latest consultant’s report into light reduction options by last Friday, but they were still waiting.

Ms Goward had also written to the company last Friday supporting the earth bund concept and urging Holcim to “continue working productively to resolve issues for the benefit of the community, the local economy and the environment.”

In a letter published in today’s Post, resident Greg Murphy said he and two Progress Association reps were “locked out” of last Monday’s community consultative committee (CCC) meeting at Marulan. It had been intended as a forum for all parties to air their concerns.

“The way it now operates seems more like a private club than a community consultation forum,” Mr Murphy wrote.

But CCC community rep, Marulan man David Humphreys said the men were only invited to the meeting afterwards. He also stood by Holcim’s light mitigation measures.

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