SHUT OUT: Residents of Rileys Hill are upset and angry that public access to the popular swimming hole will be closed after a decision by Crown Lands to fence the perimeter.
SHUT OUT: Residents of Rileys Hill are upset and angry that public access to the popular swimming hole will be closed after a decision by Crown Lands to fence the perimeter. Jamie Brown

Riley's Hill quarry fenced off angering local families

YOUNG families at Rileys Hill near Broadwater are angry their favourite swimming hole will no longer be accessible after the Department of Primary Industries decided to fence an historic quarry adjacent to the village.

First created in the late 1800s to supply stone for the Ballina breakwall, the pit flooded suddenly in 1911, trapping quarrying equipment at its base and creating a delightful swimming hole that has provided pleasure for generations.

Excellent swimming hole

A photograph in the Northern Star back in February 1936 described the quarry as an 'old swimming hole'.

Many families moved to the village of Rileys Hill because they knew the flooded quarry would provide some respite from summer heat.

But now it seems swimming in old quarries is a pastime deemed too dangerous to public health and as a result the DPI - Lands is erecting a 1.8m chain-linked fence right around the entire perimeter.

Too dangerous to swim, they say.

According to a DPI-Lands spokesman public access is 'prohibited due to safety hazards at the dormant quarry'.

"This is clearly stated in site signage," explained the spokesman. "However, some members of the public continue to access the site and put their own safety at risk despite the signage."

While there have been injuries and deaths at other quarries on the Northern Rivers, the DPI-Lands spokesman said the fencing project was not ordered as a result of those unfortunate accidents.

"This action is based on a safety audit and review of environmental factors at the quarry and is not related to incidents elsewhere," the spokesman said.

No koala access

Rileys Hill mother Corinne Fisher said she was particularly concerned that the fence would disrupt koala access to food trees located along the edge of cliffs above the quarry pool.

However the spokesman for DPI-Lands said: "All necessary assessments and approvals are in place for these works to proceed and the review concluded that there would be no restriction on the koala corridor."

Quarry vs Beach

Rileys Hill resident Angelique Walsh said her greatest concern was the obvious cost of the project and the irony that it would be closed to the public while a children's park by the river at Woodburn, or even the dry dock at Rileys Hill - next to the river - remained unfenced.

"I would much rather my children swim in this quarry than at the beach with sharks," she said.

Some parents voiced concern that the closure of the quarry could even affect the value of their homes and properties, which were sold to them with the understanding that the swimming hole was within walking distance.

Fence could cause injury

Felicity Wilde said her greatest concern was that children would - by hook or by crook - get through any fence, but if they injured themselves inside the perimeter access for emergency personnel, such as an ambulance, would be difficult.

There was also outrage that any opportunity for fun that involved risk was now being closed off to the next generation of children.

"Measures like these are actually stunting children's growth," said Angelique.

Did you know?

 BETWEEN 1889-1911 thousands of tonnes of stone were quarried from Rileys Hill, railed to the river, loaded into punts and towed by tugs to Ballina.

 The stone was used to build the southern breakwater and northern training wall at the mouth of the Richmond River.

 By September 1894, 342,276 tonnes of stone had been extracted, used for work at Ballina and Rileys Hill punt dock.

 In 1900, 133 men were employed at Rileys Hill Quarry.

 They were paid seven shillings a day.

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