Hornsby Council's Budget: a “gift” to Transurban and M7 Westlink

Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Greens
14 April 2016

The Greens and others within the municipality, can't see why a single council needs to bear one-third of the cost of any part of a state and national road infrastructure project. Just because the tunnel entrance happens to be in Hornsby. This geographic fact, should not mean that Hornsby is to be responsible for the negative impacts of the construction project. The payment for the disposal of tunnel spoil within the Hornsby area is a case in point.

The Liberal-dominated council sates "An investment of $7.33 million each is required by Council, the Commonwealth Government and the NSW Government" for the disposal of tunnel spoil. At the last Hornsby Council meeting, the Greens questioned this proposed expenditure of $7.33 million as a contribution to fill Hornsby Quarry, arguing that it is NorthConnex that should be responsible for the spoil it produces from tunnelling and roadworks.

Hornsby Council tried to further justify the expenditure by council of 7.33 million stating “This arrangement provides a one-off opportunity to rapidly fill the Quarry with virgin material”. The “one-off opportunity” shouldn't have to be purchased. This one off opportunity for NorthConnex should be paid for by NorthConnex not the council. Why isn't the council charging NorthConnex to dump its spoil in the quarry?

Charging Hornsby Kuring gai council to dump waste at the Quarry is ludicrous considering that at a previous time, the Council staff stated that if the quarry was opened as a clean-fill receiving site, construction companies would deliver clean-fill for free.

Is the council being charged for the dumping of this soil because it is inconvenient for North Connex to dump the soil in this area? Well no. Dumping the spoil from North Connex does not disadvantage NorthConnex. Moreover, the RMS Spoil Management document states “Partially filling the quarry with spoil from NorthConnex would: … minimise the overall distances required for transporting the NorthConnex project spoil by around 3.7 million kilometres.” The close proximity of the quarry site to the NorthConnex project affords the project enormous savings as compared to the alternative of transporting spoil to the proposed St Marys site. NorthConnex are saving money by dumping at the Quarry and they are making more money by charging the Council for the pleasure of saving money. Doesn't sound fair does it.

We argue that instead of paying for the “privilege” of taking spoil, Hornsby should be compensated for the huge negative impact NorthConnex will have: 33 months of traffic grid-lock, 770 truck movements a day (50 tonne truck and trailer trucks), one truck every 52 seconds, diesel exhaust fumes and particulates, traffic noise, construction noise, dust and tyre particulates, structural vibration damage, loss of productivity and massive disruption to people's lives.

This is not the first inadequate decision made by council with regard to the Hornsby Quarry. The Greens also questioned the botched purchase and remediation of the quarry in the first place when CSR were pulling out of the quarry. At the time CSR offered the quarry to council for ONE DOLLAR if the council took on the re mediation themselves, or alternatively, CSR were prepared to remediate the quarry and then sell it to council.

Many in the community believe that Hornsby Council really did botch the acquisition, paying $26 million for the un-remediated quarry stating it was “forced to do so”. Whilst we recognise that the current council does not have the same composition as the council at the time of purchase, the following letter in the Hornsby Advocate from the Liberal premier of the time to the Liberal dominated council questioned the council's position.

Nick Greiner's letter to the Hornsby Advocate 10 September 2009
Legislation voted for by all parties
JUST for the record:
When the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act was passed, all the parties – Labor Party and all the Independents - voted as well as my government in favour of the legislation.
The suggestion that Hornsby Council was somehow forced into its position by the legislation is simply nonsense.
I am advised that in 1994 Hornsby Council amended its LEP to identify the Hornsby Quarry as open space and include the owner initiated acquisition clause in the LEP.
This action was taken by the council on its own initiative. It was not an action required by the legislation.
Subsequent councils obviously had between 1994 and 2002 to re-zone the land and revoke the buy-clause.
Nick Greiner,
former Premier, NSW

We do recognise and respect that council's current position on the quarry was vindicated to a large extent by Tim Robertson SC's findings at the time, but the findings, and the examination of the dealings, calls into question key aspects of planning legislation.

We wonder about the motives behind Nick Greiner's letter, and Tim Robertson's findings suggest that council was indeed forced into the purchase of the quarry at a price adversely impacted by the Valuer General's assessment.

The quarry has been a financial burden on Hornsby Council and consequently on Hornsby residents, with many residents expressing the view that we have paid for the quarry many times over.

The history of the quarry aside, it seems Hornsby Council will bend over backwards to support, and financially support, the Baird and Turnbull government's wasteful and destructive “big roads” agenda at the expense of ordinary taxpayers and ratepayers.

We do support the remediation of Hornsby Quarry, but at a sensible pace. The Baird government's timetable has much more to do with the timing of the next state election than it does with the engineering and social impact requirements of the road project. For the record, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Greens opposed NorthConnex, its unfiltered ventilation/exhaust stacks, and its design (lack of transverse ventilation and lack of a third ventilation, service and escape tunnel).

Residents of Hornsby might be under the impression that the completion of NorthConnex will coincide with the completion of the quarry restoration. The spoil from the tunnel (1.5 million cubic metres), will only fill about one third of the quarry. The quarry restoration will take more than 10 years and a lot more fill.

The council's budget went on display from 14 April 2016. We ask that all residents examine this proposed budget very carefully and we encourage residents to make submissions.

David Sentinella
Hornsby Ku-ing-gai Greens