Why was council so lenient on Tomerong Quarry? Inquiry launched

Earlier in the year, Fairfax Media revealed the Tomerong Quarry had imported more than 1000 tonnes of carcinogenic fly ash. Later, the EPA revealed the quarry had also imported asbestos.

Earlier in the year, Fairfax Media revealed the Tomerong Quarry had imported more than 1000 tonnes of carcinogenic fly ash. Later, the EPA revealed the quarry had also imported asbestos.

The Tomerong community is finally seeing justice prevail.

After years of campaigning for tougher penalties on a corporate citizen in their backyard that continued to breach development consent conditions to the detriment of the environment, and possibly their health, Tomerong residents are being listened to, and having their questions answered.

At Shoalhaven City Council’s strategy and assets committee meeting, Tomerong Community Forum spokesman Peter Allison presented a damning deputation, accusing council of shirking its duty to penalise the Tomerong Quarry for “breach upon breach”.

Council slapped the quarry with $114,000 in penalties for the first time in 2017 – not enough to placate the Tomerong community.

“We hold on some good authority that the total amount of fines for these breaches were in the vicinity of $2.5 to $3 million,” Mr Allison said.

“How is $114,000 a significant sum when it represents less than 5 per cent of the total maximum penalty.

“Can council staff explain their logic to the developer who was fined this week at Comberton grange $76,000 for lopping 29 trees, or to the quarry at South Nowra who was fined in excess of this for increased output on one occasion?

“You can not blame the Tomerong Community for feeling that the Council had not acted in the best interest of the community but in the interest of one quarry operator.

“The elephant in the room is why.

“We need to know why.”

Shoalhaven mayor Amanda Findley offered a sincere apology to Mr Allison and the entire community.

“They feel hard done by, and rightfully so,” she said.

“I could have done more in my time, being elected for 10 years. I am sorry if I’ve let the community down.”

Councillor and former mayor Joanna Gash also apologised.

“As a former mayor, I also take responsibility,” she said.

“Each time we flagged an issue, we were assured all is well.”

There were talks about urging council’s general manager Russ Pigg to apologise to the community, but this idea was quashed by Cr Greg Watson.

“It would be a tarnishment on all staff that worked in development services for nearly three decades,” he said.

“Leave staff out of it. This is a disgrace.”

Instead, all councillors resolved the general manager would commission an independent, external investigation into issues raised by the community regarding compliance and operation of the Tomerong Quarry.

Mr Allison was pleased with the outcome, and keenly awaits the findings.