Councillors to consider sawmill following water catchment concerns

A PROPOSED sawmill will only be allowed to process the timber it already has onsite if councillors give it the go-ahead on Thursday night. 

Applicant Dean Brus asked to be able to store up to 10,000 timber railway sleepers on his Forest Road property, which are already onsite, as well as grade and trim them within the next 10 years to be onsold to landscaping businesses and nurseries. 

He originally submitted the development application (DA) to Orange City Council in December 2016, before submitting an amended proposal in September.

Staff noted work had already started without consent, but recommended approval for the plans.

The development received 14 submissions. 

Opponents alleged the sleepers contained asbestos, however testing by Envirowest Consulting last month concluded sleepers were unlikely to contain asbestos dust from train brakes. 

The firm also confirmed other potential contaminants from timber storage and agricultural activities were below the thresholds and no action was needed on the land. 

Appledale Processors Co-operative general manager Jessica Crombie was one of the objectors also voicing concerns about the mill being located within a water catchment area, saying dust could cause air and water contamination to their orchards and grazing livestock.

“The location of the sawmill may allow for airborne debris and other chemicals to reach the orchard and affect the ability for the company to harvest the fruit resulting in lost profits,” the submission said. 

Staff concluded neighbouring properties were unlikely to be affected by dust or odours, but as a precaution, added conditions to collect and dispose of dust, treat all stormwater before it leaves the site and release the water at a pace to avoid damage to downstream developments. 

Landscaping would be planted along the boundaries as a screening measure. 

Philip and Louise Baker submitted rats lived around the sleepers and had chewed their outdoor furniture, prompting staff to request the applicant to manage vermin.

Operating hours, including truck movements, would be limited to 7.30am-5.30pm on weekdays and 8am-1pm on Saturdays, in line with the applicant’s request. 

The two hours’ anticipated running time for the sawmill each week has also been enforced in the condition, with no operation on weekends, and no additional railway sleepers would be allowed to be transported to the site. 

Onsite sales would be limited to 10 sleepers per vehicle on Sundays, by appointment.

Mr Brus said objections were alarmist, particularly with regard to asbestos, because the sleepers were post-1980. 

He also emphasised the development was low-impact due to minimum sawing time and only one truck a week accessing the site. 

Councillors will consider possible action on the illegal operations once they have dealt with the DA.