Gunnedah Shire Council has decided to defer an important decision on a rural road that could close a small business in the area.

The motion to defer amending the conditions of consent to a development application on the Beeson Road quarry was carried as some Gunnedah shire councillors wanted more time to make a decision or see a different outcome.

The original developmental application was granted to developers of the quarry on Beeson Road in March 2024. Council then received a request in April for reconsideration of the consent conditions.

The new conditions included restriction on truck movements, construction of toilets (applicant proposed to install a portal toilet), limitations on hours of operation and sealing 600 metres of Beeson Road in front of two houses (originally three) to eliminate dust disturbances.

Applicant Darren Jones made it known the business would be agreeable to all conditions except for sealing the road.

The responsibility would cost approximately $600,000 to seal the road, which Mr Jones said would close the small business and leave four people without income.

The two speakers, Mr Jones and Timothy Strong (representing Sandra Strong), made their cases during the June council meeting, urging councillors to think it through before making a decision.

Cr Kate McGrath asked Mr Jones if deferring the matter to a later meeting would help, in which he responded: “I just want a good outcome, so if it requires it being deferred, so be it”.

It was Cr Murray O’Keefe who moved for the matter to be deferred.

“This is a complex matter and as always, we are all cognisant of the need to act correctly and within the bounds of advice when it comes to a planning matter and note that myself, and I suspect a few of my fellow elected representatives, would like the opportunity to pick through this in more detail with the staff before we make a determination that could have some wide reaching implications on either side of the debate within our community,” Cr O’Keefe said.

There were two councillors who spoke against deferring the motion.

Cr Rob Hooke said he was “alarmed” at the motion to defer, feeling the original motion to amend the conditions was clear cut.

“We either support an industry or we let an industry fail,” he said.

“We know what the crux of the matter is, it is all about sealing the road and I do not think any further discussion with our planning department is going to alter the fact that they would like to see the road sealed, and I for one, think that it is absolutely unnecessary.”

Cr Robert Hoddle also believed the decision could have been made on Wednesday night.

“It has been on the agenda, we have read the paper, if you are worried, you could have driven up the road and had a look at it, had a look at the geography of it, as I have done,” he said.

“Now, are we going to limit farmers from driving more than twice down a road?

“These people have been waiting for a determination for years about this DA – 800 days and [on Wednesday night], we want to defer it?

“Either say, okay, Jones family, you are going to have to put in for the bitumen which will cost you more than $600,000 – that will close their business, or we agree to waive some of these conditions which are onerous.

“From running my own business I know that the situation at their end, they just cannot pay it and it will close. We need this facility.”

Seconding the motion to defer, Cr McGrath said it was not a “cut and dry” decision her fellow councillors made it out to be.

“Given that it has been very clearly communicated to us that if we were to carry the recommendation into a motion and pass that, it would likely result in the closure of a local business, I am certainly not willing to make that decision swiftly or lightly,” she said.

Cr Ann Luke was in favour of deferring so another opportunity could hopefully be presented.

While she sympathised with the families involved in the business, if there was no other resolution to be had, she would be voting for the officer’s recommendation in case the business’ operations expanded to the extent the DA would allow for.

As a last remark to his motion, Cr O’Keefe said he was “disappointed” that other councillors thought that deferring the issue could be considered taking a position.

“I do not want to see [anyone] end up in the Land and Environment Court because that costs an awful lot of money and creates losers all around,” he said.

“I can certainly identify gaps in [the original determination, the request for review and the officer’s recommendation], I think some of our elected councillors can too.

“I would like to work through that and understand what our position is and get the right outcome.”

He said because the DA is for the quarry and the land rather than any future business operating on the land, the longer term implications would need to be considered if the use were to change.

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