A new research report released today by the Queensland Environmental Defenders Office reveals that in the last decade, the Queensland Land Court has never before acted to recommend outright refusal of a mine expansion after a contested hearing as far as the EDO lawyers could locate, and that during this period the Queensland government has consistently followed the court’s recommendations.
The report, commissioned by Lock the Gate, notes that history shows it would be highly unusual for the Queensland Government to depart from a Land Court recommendation.
Oakey Coal Action Alliance, a group of more than 60 farmers and objectors who brought the court action, are urging the Queensland government to respect the Land Court’s expertise and adopt its recommendation to reject the mine expansion project.
The report finds:
The Land Court has made more than 300 recommendations over mining leases in the past decade.
Over 98% of these recommendations were for approval. Less than 2% were to recommend a project be refused.
The Court’s Acland Stage 3 recommendation was the only instance Queensland Environmental Defenders Office could locate where the Court had made an outright recommendation of refusal after a contested hearing.
The majority of recommendations had been followed by the State Government during this period. In fact not a single instance was located of a recommendation of approval not being followed.
Sunshine Coast Barrister and academic, Alex McKean, said, “It would be perverse for the Government to go against the Land Court,in light of the very lengthy trial which preceded the court’s recommendations, during which all of the relevant issues were ventilated.
“For the government to reject the Land Court’s recommendations would be a slap in the face for the landowners who stood up to New Hope to protect their farming community for future generations,” said Mr McKean.
Jo Bragg, CEO & Solicitor of EDO Qld, legal representation for OCAA in the Land Court case, said, “Our analysis tells us it would be inconsistent for the government to depart from a Land Court refusal recommendation, by approving the controversial Stage 3 expansion of New Acland.
“The Court's rare outright refusal recommendation is testament to the high risks Stage 3 poses to the Acland farming community as proven in Court.
“Community objection rights in holding government and industry to account in the independent Land Court are crucial for major projects.”
Paul King from Oakey Coal Action Alliance said, "If the Queensland government truly respects the judicial process which has methodically and carefully analysed evidence from experts and the community it will do the right thing and accept the umpire’s decision which is to reject this destructive mining project.
"This project puts at risk some of the richest farming land in the state. It will rob us of precious water and create untenable noise and air pollution,” said Mr King.
Scarlett Squire, community coordinator from Lock the Gate QLD said, “The proposed Acland expansion would result in the loss of more than 1300 hectares of prime strategic cropping land and cause drawdown in groundwater aquifers of up to 47 metres in some locations.
"Premier Palaszczuk and the Queensland Government have spoken at length about the importance of fair and balanced state development which recognises the public interest..
"This is Minister Lynham's opportunity to put words into action, uphold the rights of farmers and residents from the Acland community and reject the New Acland Stage 3 proposal in accordance with the Land Court decision,” said Ms Squire.
The report can be accessed here: