Plea for the Plains: protesting farmers ask Cabinet to listen

Published: February 17, 2015

A group of farmers and other community members from the Liverpool Plains are today protesting at the Tamworth office of Federal Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, calling on him to ensure the Federal Government rejects the controversial Shenhua Watermark coal mine. 

Concerned New England electorate members are holding a “kneel-in” outside Barnaby Joyce MP’s Tamworth office to plead with the Federal Cabinet and the Member for New England to stop the approval of the Shenhua Watermark and BHP Caroona coal mines that are proposed to be in the middle of the Liverpool Plains.

This follows public declarations Barnaby Joyce that he has “never agreed to these mines on the Liverpool Plains,” which he has described as “an anathema.” Mr Joyce has promised to “try as much as I can” to prevent them because the area affected is “the best land in Australia” and “if we get it wrong it will have massive consequences.” (source: ABC Radio New England North West, Kelly Fuller interview 29 January 2015)

The people attending the protest say Mr Joyce must ensure that Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, rejects the mine under the EPBC Act and its water trigger.

The mine was approved by the New South Wales Government late last month, but the “kneel-in” participants say the Federal Government can and must stop the mine from going ahead.

Hugh Price is at the protest and said, “There is a huge gap in our scientific knowledge of the relationship between the ridges and the alluvium aquifers of the Liverpool Plains. This was acknowledged in the Namoi Catchment Water Study Report by independent experts.

“We are here today to make sure that Federal Cabinet and Mr Joyce prevent this mine from irreparably damaging the Liverpool Plains and the productive aquifers that underlie it.”

Andrew Pursehouse, whose farm is directly adjacent to the proposed mine joined the protest today and said, “The land and water of the Liverpool Plain should be protected forever as irreplaceable food growing soils. The world is having a Dining Boom not a Mining Boom. The risks are too great to the future of food production on the Liverpool Plains to approve this mine.”


Plea for the Plains 

Plea for the Plains

We are concerned members of the Liverpool Plains community and we are here today to:

 1)  Ask Barnaby Joyce, our local member and Minister for Agriculture, to make representations to fellow Cabinet members and the Government about mining on the Liverpool Plains.

 2)  We are asking that the Cabinet and Minister Greg Hunt to stop the proposed mining on the Liverpool Plains by rejecting the Shenhua Watermark Coal mine project.

Watermark will be a 3,520ha open cut coal mine, equivalent to 4,620 football fields in size and reaching depths of 280m. It will only be 900m away from the closest aquifer. These pit holes will be 230m below the aquifers that surround it on all three sides. The mine will operate for 30 years, but Shenhua has flagged that the deeper coal beneath the aquifers is a resource of the future that interests them.

The open cut mine disturbance area is on the low lying ridge that essentially is an “island” within the floodplain. It will be a huge permanent scar on the Liverpool Plains and it will interfere with the Liverpool Plains system. Around 80 million tonnes of dirt per annum will be excavated to get the 10 million tonnes of coal they are seeking.

The NSW Planning process has failed to acknowledge that the science is not complete on the interconnectivity of the alluvium groundwater to the ridges proposed to be mined. There is a huge gap in our knowledge of the relationship between the ridges and the alluvium aquifers of the Liverpool Plains. This gap in science was highlighted in the Namoi Catchment Water Study and was a high priority recommendation for future work to be done, especially on areas near the ridges where coal or coal seam gas operations might be considered.

The NSW government has failed to produce this science because it has not been done. The water models that the NSW Government has relied on uses assumptions for the interconnectivity factor between the ridges and the alluvium. Considering the significance of the prime agricultural assets and water in the vicinity of the proposed mine, the risk is extremely high if these assumptions are incorrect.

We are pleading for the Plains to remain intact and undisturbed. We seek the ear and support of the Coalition Government and Minister Hunt to reject mining on our prime farming land and clean groundwater aquifers. It is time that we transition away from the resources industry being the main foundation of our economy and support the Agricultural industry to produce food and fibre and reap the rewards and opportunities that the recent Fair Trading Agreements with Korea, Japan and China affords our Agricultural industries.


We need to support the Dining Boom as much as we are supporting the Mining Boom. To do this we need our prime farming land and clean groundwater aquifers undisturbed by mining.


 The Prime Minister has stated that coal is good for humanity however prime farming land and clean groundwater aquifers will feed humanity forever.


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