Maules Creek residents have expressed dismay at news that Whitehaven Board Member Tony Haggarty has been appointed as a Director of the North West Local Land Services (LLS) Board, handing him a key role in decisions on natural resource management and land-use conflict in the region.
Tony Haggarty was, until earlier this year, also the managing director of Whitehaven Coal. According to the 2013 Whitehaven Annual Report, he currently holds 33 million shares in the company.
Whitehaven is the proponent of huge open cut coal mine proposed to clear approx 2000ha of native vegetation in the Leard State Forest in the north of NSW, and the owner of several other coal mines in the region.
The Local Land Service will be responsible for developing a framework for assessing the cumulative risk of mining on natural resources in the Namoi Catchment, and will also have the primary role in management of Travelling Stock Routes - which are often targeted for coal and gas mining.
“This is a classic case of the NSW Government putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. A Board member of a company that has a strong interest in expanding mining across our region has been handed a plum role in the organisation that is supposed to be independently assessing the risks of mining," said Phil Laird, local landholder and National Co-ordinator for Lock the Gate.
“As far as our community is concerned, the Whitehaven Maules Creek mine will have significant impacts on our groundwater, local environment and air quality. To put a Whitehaven Board member in such an important land management position is grossly inappropriate and speaks volumes about the Government’s disregard for farming communities.
"There are also major concerns that this appointment foreshadows moves to open up Travelling Stock Routes to coal and gas mining and associated infrastructure developments.
"This appointment smacks of a conflict of interest, and we're calling on the NSW Government to urgently reconsider and appoint an expert without ties to the mining industry to the role instead," he said.