Freemans Reach sand mining gets green light – 700,000 tonnes to be dug out of the Hawkesbury
The Sydney Western City Planning Panel has decided 3-2 to allow a major sand mining operation at Freemans Reach in a move which some believe opens the door to large scale sand mining in all low lying areas of the Hawkesbury.
Hawkesbury Council had strongly opposed the move for the Freemans Reach quarry which will be on the current Greener Valley Lawn Supplies property, citing potential damage to the Hawkesbury River and local environment as major potential issues.
But the panel of unelected representatives – which included Hawkesbury Council’s Infrastructure Director Jeff Organ who vote against, as did Council’s Judy Clark - said, “as builder’s sand is a scarce commodity in high demand in the local construction industry, the proposed sand extraction facility will make a positive contribution to the regional economy”.
But Hawkesbury Greens councillor Danielle Wheeler has come out strongly against the decision, labelling it "environmental vandalism".
The new mining site, bordered by the Hawkesbury River and Freemans Reach Road just up from the Gorricks Lane roundabout - will see 70,000 tonnes of sand dug up each year for a decade.
There will be around six to eight truckloads of sand a day transported on Hawkesbury roads, potentially six days a week, according to the original documents put before the Panel.
The new quarry will operate across portions of 374, 395 and 415 Freemans Reach Road, cover 6.5 hectares (16 acres) and be operated by Greener Valley Sands, a new company set up by Anthony Muscat and his family.
Mr Muscat and son Joe and family currently operate under Greener Lawn Supplies.
In their judgement, the majority panel members said, "because extraction is proposed to progress in stages, only a portion of the extraction area will be exposed at any one time."
They said the land would be reinstated to "existing levels and revegetated".
Mr Muscat has previously told the Post, “we will rejuvenate the soil and it will be returned to agricultural land, and it will be better than it was before. We will then returf it.”
In their judgement, the Panel added it was "ultimately satisfied that the visual impacts of the proposal were assessed to be acceptable, such that the existing rural character will not be unacceptably affected."
The proposal for the quarry originally came up in 2018 and was first objected to by Hawkesbury councillors back in February 2019 when Greens councillor Danielle Wheeler, seconded by now Deputy-Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett, put up a Motion to reaffirm Council’s objections to any new sand mining in the local government area. All councillors supported the Motion.
Today, Cllr Wheeler told the Post, “This is environmental vandalism for the sake of short term profit. Anyone associated with it should be deeply ashamed”.
“It’s completely out of touch with community expectations, destructive, and flies in the face of everything we know about good management of waterways and riparian zones.
“Council resolved unanimously to reject any new sand mining in the area, following a notice of motion I put up in 2019.
“The impacts on the river bank and riparian zone are significant and I have received numerous complaints from local residents about the works. There was limited support for some dredging when the sand bar developed following the 2020 floods, but this sand bar washed away in 2021.
“The building industry is not short of sand - that’s a convenient myth, and there are numerous alternatives including recycled products even if it was true.”
We’ve been in touch with the Muscats for comment and will add to this story when we hear back from them.
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