Farmers from the Oakey Coal Action Alliance who have been battling the New Acland Stage 3 coal mine are relieved and excited after the High Court of Australia found in their favour.
The Court found in favour of the Alliance on all counts and that New Hope was required to pay costs of proceedings.
The decision means that the issue will be sent back to the Queensland Land Court for a new hearing on the merits of the proposal.
OCAA president and alpaca farmer Aileen Harrison said, “It is a relief OCAA has been saved from any action against it.
“We hope that we can win from here on in and get the mine stopped, so we can save our water and land, and leave it for future generations.”
OCAA secretary Paul King said the result was a win on all counts.
“It is a better outcome than we could have hoped for,” he said.
“We have won on all counts and New Hope has been ordered to pay costs to the High Court.
“The High Court’s decision is, in our view, vindication that the Darling Downs is for farming - not coal mining.”
Proposals to expand the mine were first rejected by the Newman LNP government in 2012.
The revised application was rejected by the Palaszczuk ALP government in 2018 following a recommendation of refusal by the Land Court in 2017.
The mining company appealed the 2017 Land Court recommendation to the Supreme Court which, in 2018, found parts of the recommendation to be in error and ordered the Land Court to rehear the case, but bound by most of the original findings from 2017.
In November 2018, a reconstituted Land Court recommended the project be approved and, in 2019, the environmental approval was granted.
Further appeals to the Court of Appeal in 2019 then also found the 2017 Land Court decision to be affected by apprehended bias but did not order a fresh hearing. The Court of Appeal decision caused doubts regarding the validity of the 2018 Land Court decision which relied heavily on the 2017 Land Court decision, now found to have been affected by apprehended bias.
OCAA appealed to the High Court, with leave, in 2020 arguing that it should have been afforded a fresh hearing, unconstrained by the earlier 2017 decision found to be affected by bias.
Today the High Court allowed the appeal and ordered a fresh hearing in the Land Court.