The Bylong community is calling on all those eager to protect prime agricultural land and celebrate Christmas at church this year to join them in a show of defiance against KEPCO at the village’s heritage-listed St Stephens.
Christmas church attendance numbers have declined in the ten years since South Korean Government-owned KEPCO first began buying up properties and depopulating the valley, and last year there was no service at all because the community couldn’t get a minister.
But this year, with a Christmas service to be led by Reverend David Craig, and Covid-19 restrictions having eased, locals will throw the doors of the church wide open to all who want to celebrate Christmas and show their opposition to KEPCO’s destructive proposal.
“We just don’t have a high number of people in Bylong Valley here any more,” said beef farmer and St Stephens Restoration Fund Committee chairman Peter Grieve.
“KEPCO depopulated 30,000 acres, so a lot of people left.
“We’d love it if people who can make the journey would join us for a special Christmas service at St Stephens, to bring a bit of joy to this little valley and to show KEPCO that the broader community still fiercely opposes its destructive coal mine.”
KEPCO’s Bylong Valley coal mine was rejected by the NSW Independent Planning Commission in September 2019 due its “long-lasting environmental, agricultural and heritage impacts”.
However, the company appealed the decision in August this year in the New South Wales Land and Environment Court. Bylong locals were allowed to defend the IPC’s decision in court, and are now awaiting the judge’s decision.
Since then, the South Korean Government, and ultimate owner of KEPCO, has committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and its continuing appetite for Australian coal, particularly from greenfield coal mines, is in doubt.
Mr Grieve said local landholders should be compensated for the uncertainty they’ve had to endure over the past decade.
“Farmers in the Bylong Valley have not been able to run their land the way it should have been run because we didn’t know if we’d be here next year or the year after,” he said.
“There has just been so much uncertainty created due to this coal mine proposal. We would absolutely love to ring in the festive season and the new year with this shadow over our heads gone once and for all.”
Service details: 6pm Sat 19 December, St Stephens, Bylong.