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After the coal rush: New report sets out clean green blueprint for Hunter’s future

Hunter Valley residents want increased coal royalties to support the region’s post mining transition and fund the cleanup bill to repair the landscape, according to findings in a new report.

The call is among several key visions for the future of the Hunter contained in After the coal rush, the clean up. A community blueprint to restore the Hunter, released today by community group Hunter Renewal (Wednesday February 8).

The report found:

  • If NSW followed Queensland’s lead and implemented a tiered royalty system, with a top rate of 40%, the state could have recouped an extra $23 billion in royalties last financial year. Instead, coal companies paid about $3.5 billion dollars to the state in royalties.

  • There is an estimated $22 billion shortfall in bonds that are held by the government that’s required to adequately rehabilitate disturbed mine land in the Hunter.

The report was compiled with the assistance of local academics, Traditional Owners, energy experts, and many others from the Hunter region, and builds on years of community engagement and surveys.

It’s also informed by the findings of an EY study last year, that found if the post-coal transition is managed correctly, the region stands to benefit from a $3.7 billion renewable energy, agricultural, and conservation boon.

Other key findings of the report show the Hunter community wants:

  • Better rehabilitation requirements for coal projects so companies cannot leave open pits when mining ends

  • Greater local involvement to determine post-mining land use in the Hunter

  • The return of land, especially unmined “buffer” zones, to Traditional Owners

  • The creation of an independent Hunter Rehabilitation and Restoration Commission to plan, coordinate and deliver a restored Hunter Valley

Hunter Renewal Engagement Lead and Singleton resident Sophie Nichols said, “The Community Blueprint to Restore the Hunter is a call to action. We’ve done this work to help decision makers put in place the right policies for a prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable future for our Valley.

“We don’t want a top down approach. Hunter Valley locals want governments to help us by giving us the power and support to determine our own destiny as unavoidable, global forces dismantle the fossil fuel industry that so many here have spent their lives working for.

“But we need to act fast. Sudden decisions to bring forward the closures of local power stations are but a taste of what’s to come as the world shifts to majority clean energy.

“Hunter Valley residents are eager to seize post-mining opportunities and transform our region for the better. If politicians listen to locals, we can achieve a vision for the Hunter of connected, healthy communities, a restored environment, and a diversified, sustainable economy with a strong focus on clean energy industries.”

University of Newcastle senior lecturer in anthropology Hedda Askland said, “During the coal boom, government planning and decision making placed the needs of the Hunter community second, behind the wants of mining companies and industry.

“As a result, the community carried a lot of negative environmental and social impacts from coal mining, which will have long-lasting impacts.

“We’re now at the edge of a new era. We need to avoid making the same mistakes and ensure that local concerns and aspirations are at the centre of policies and planning that are to shape the future of the region. Locals need to be brought in and given the loudest voice as those who will be at the forefront of the impact, and the people who are able to carry forward positive projects for change.”

Renewal by the numbers:

  • More than 130,000 hectares of land will become available for new use in the next 20 years as 17 mines close.

  • 50,000 hectares of that is “buffer land” - the area between mines and surrounding communities and other properties.

  • 25 massive pit voids are expected to remain with no current plan for rehabilitation in place. Combined, these polluting pit voids have a surface area equivalent to Sydney Harbour, but are much deeper.

  • Increasing the level of rehabilitation and land management and extending this to buffer lands could deliver 670 full time jobs to the Hunter. 

  • If renewable energy precincts are added to the scenario then 13,600 jobs could be created with a $3.7 billion boost to the local economy in the next two decades

  • Since last year, the Hunter has received a share of $25 million in annual royalties money provided under the Royalties for Rejuvenation scheme. But this is a fraction of what is required to prepare the region for a post-coal future.

ENDS

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