Ashton ruling shows importance of community objection rights

Published: November 20, 2015

The Hunter Environment Lobby has welcomed today's ruling in the Court of Appeal that the Ashton South East Open Cut mine cannot go ahead without the consent of local farmer and landholder, Wendy Bowman.

The court upheld a previous Land and Environment Court ruling that Ms Bowman must voluntarily sell her property to Yancoal before the mine can go ahead.

The ruling will prevent the mine from going ahead, as Ms Bowman has no intention to sell.

“I will not be selling my farm to Yancoal”, said Ms Bowman. “No way.”

“Open cut coal mines have already wrecked too much land and water in my part of the world, and it mustn't be allowed to get worse. Yancoal's proposed mine would destroy my farm, which I have worked so hard on, and irreparably damage Glennies Creek and the Hunter River. I will not be selling – the mine will not go ahead.”

While welcoming today's decision, Hunter Environment Lobby laments that most coal mine approvals in NSW do not enjoy the same third-party merits appeal rights that led to this outcome.

“Today's decision is great news for Wendy and her neighbours, but sadly, most coal mine approvals in NSW cannot be challenged in court”, said Bev Smiles, spokesperson for HEL.

“Ordinarily, this mine would be going ahead regardless of what local landholders wanted, and there would have been no legal avenue to challenge the approval.

This shows how important it is for community groups to have access to the courts for third party merits appeals of mining approvals.”

“Today's court ruling proves that sometimes, at least, government's make the wrong decision when handing out mine approvals. Natural justice and procedural fairness dictate that community's should be allowed to challenge inappropriate mining approvals. Sadly, most communities don't have that right.”

“We call on the Baird Government to fully restore third-party appeal rights for coal mine approvals,” said Ms Smiles.

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