Lock the Gate Alliance says the NSW Government has left rural landholders trapped with pollution that is damaging their health and ruining their lives as the result of a failed “Voluntary Acquisition Policy” for major mining projects introduced two years ago.
The policy stipulates some air and noise pollution thresholds that give landholders adjacent to coal mines the right to demand they be bought out by the mining company, but Lock the Gate says the policy is cruel and damaging, emptying rural communities of people on the one hand, and stranding others with health-damaging pollution on the other.
Lock the Gate says new standards adopted for air quality nationally in December were supposed to have been implemented by the middle of the year. Under the National Clean Air Agreement work plan, adopted in December, all jurisdictions where to implement “strengthened particle reporting standards agreed to by the National Environment Protection Council by mid-2016.”
Lock the Gate spokesperson, Georgina Woods, said, “The NSW government is failing rural people with this policy when it applies and when it doesn’t. On the one hand, the Government and mines are trapping them with pollution that is damaging their health. On the other, it is forcing them to relocate, tearing apart the fabric of country communities.
“More than 160 properties in the Hunter and New England areas have Acquisition rights attached to just seven large coal mines, including Maules Creek. Many more people are living with the dislocation and disruption it causes, the dwindling of community activities, rural fire service volunteers and other services.
“Rather than force the mining companies to work at civilised hours, and to curtail their scale and rate production so that they do not cause breaches of air quality and other standards, the Department of Planning has simply been allowing pollution standards to be breached, and forcing people to sell up and leave their communities.
“Rural families are being given an impossible choice: sell up and tear apart a community, or live with unliveable noise and dust impacts from a coal mine next door. The NSW Government has two days to fulfil the agreement it made in December to implement stronger air quality regulations, and it had better do that, because people are suffering right now.”
Further comment: Georgina Woods 0437 405 932
To view a map of rural lands in the Hunter and New England areas owned by coal companies as a result of acquisition for and around mines, see here: http://www.lockthegate.org.au/flogging_the_farm
 Maules Creek, 12 landowners were granted acquisition rights; Moolarben, 16 properties with acquisition rights; Anvil Hill/Mangoola, 36 properties in the acquisition area; Mount Owen, 18 properties; Mount Pleasant (not yet built) 47 properties within the acquisition area; Bengalla mine expansion, 21 properties within the acquisition area; Watermark coal mine, 11 properties in the acquisition area.