Newcastle & Hunter Valley Speleological Society Inc v Upper Hunter Shire Council and Stoneco Pty Limited
EDO NSW acted for the Newcastle and Hunter Valley Speleological Society Inc (NHVSS) in its merits appeal against a decision of the Council to approve a limestone quarry in the Hunter Valley . The major issues on appeal were the impacts of the quarry on an endangered ecological community (EEC); the impacts on caves and cave dwelling fauna; and other broader issues and concerns of the resident objectors. The Court found that the proposal was not likely to significantly affect the EEC because there were sufficient measures in place to protect against any adverse impact.
The Court granted development consent to the quarry subject to stringent conditions. Noting the uncertainty as to presence of caves and cave-dwelling fauna, the Court applied the precautionary principle and imposed a number of adaptive management and monitoring requirements. The quarry is required to monitor for caves, voids, fissures and other geodiversity of significance, and to sample for underground fauna species on the site and outside the site for at least one year before the first blast takes place. In recognition of the value of the biodiversity on the site and the EECs affected, the quarry owner is required to conserve in the long term 60 hectares of land as an offset. The quarry owner is also required to remediate and conserve the 6 hectares of land that will be damaged by the quarrying activities. An independent panel of experts will monitor the development over the life of the quarry.
EDO NSW acknowledges Patrick Larkin and Chris Norton of counsel for their many hours of work on this case including numerous visits to the site.