In late 2011, the Sunshine Coast Regional Council refused a development application made by Parklands Blue Metal Pty Ltd seeking a Development Permit for Material Change of Use for Extractive Industry and Environmentally Relevant Activity 16, in order to establish a hard rock quarry at Yandina. Parklands successfully appealed to the Planning and Environment Court and the matter was adjourned so that conditions consistent with the reasons for judgment could be formulated. [1]

Before conditions were formulated, the Council applied to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal the Planning and Environment Court’s decision. That application was refused. [2]

On 22 June 2017, His Honour Judge Robertson delivered reasons for judgment with respect to proposed conditions of approval. Although there were many disputed conditions, we focus on the question of the timing of a condition that required upgrading the haul route.

Timing of the haul route upgrade

It was accepted at the merits hearing that there was insufficient room on the site to store overburden in the preparation phase of the quarry. Accordingly, it would be necessary to remove that overburden from the site and prepare the site for business activity. At the conditions hearing, there was a focus on what commencement of the use meant in the context of a quarry operation. Parklands contended that the use would commence when the “extractive industry”, as defined in the planning scheme, commences.

On that basis, Parklands submitted that the haul route could be partially upgraded during the 18 month preparation phase. The Court noted that the conditions preferred by Parklands would result in at least 110 large truck movements on a road system that presently experiences very low large truck movements, comprised significant unsealed parts and was well below design standards for traffic safety as agreed by the experts and accepted in the merits hearing.

On the other hand, Council and the Yandina Creek Progress Association (the 3rd CoRespondent by Election) contended that the removal of overburden prior to commencement of the quarry business was relevant. The question for the Court was whether the conditions proposed by Council (to ensure that the haul route is fully upgraded before introducing a large number of heavy vehicles) were an unreasonable imposition on the development.

It was common knowledge between the traffic engineers that the same safety issues would arise whether the trucks carry overburden or quarry products, and that there were very low heavy vehicle movements on the Councilowned part of the haul route. The Court also accepted expert evidence that introducing a large number of heavy vehicles with smaller vehicles on such a road that was in poor condition, created the potential for conflict.

Even though there was insufficient room to stockpile overburden on the site, the Court noted that the need for the haul route upgrade was an issue of traffic safety and amenity impacts. Conditions that required full and adequate upgrading of the haul route were reasonably required as a consequence of the development. Whilst possible issues may arise (e.g. sourcing road building materials before heavy vehicles use the haul route), it was found to not be an unreasonable imposition on the development in light of traffic safety.

Ultimately the Court preferred the evidence that the haul route should be fully upgraded, before a significant number of large heavy vehicles per day are introduced on the particular road system.

Conclusions

The Court focussed on the impacts of the proposed conditions, rather than a technical approach about when the use would commence. The Court was also concerned that evidence accepted in the merits hearing would be adequately reflected in the conditions. Whilst the Court acknowledged that the preferred conditions may have convenience and cost implications for Parklands, this did not override traffic safety concerns.