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Farmers stand firm as New Acland battle heads to High Court

Darling Downs farmers and their supporters have criticised coal mining company New Hope for wanting to destroy prime agricultural land and drain precious groundwater as the battle over the New Acland Stage 3 expansion heads to the High Court today (October 6).

Some of the High Court justices will be sitting in Canberra, and the parties’ representatives will be appearing there in person. A limited public gallery space will be available, however a ruling is not expected to be made immediately. Further details and a transcript after the hearing will be made available here.

If the farmers are successful, the matter will likely return to the Land Court, which recommended in 2017 that both a mining lease and an environmental authority should be refused.

Oakey Coal Action Alliance president Aileen Harrison, who runs a herd of about 400 alpacas for wool, said, “We are on one of those basins that would be affected by Stage 3. 

“We have only one bore for our stock and it’s the only water we have for everything.

“If New Acland Stage 3 goes ahead, it will mean we can’t have stock any more and we will be left with a barren property and what’s the point of a barren property?”

Dairy farmer David Vonhoff said, “when mining occurs and they take the water out of that coal the water table will drop so the whole landscape, all the nearby farms will be affected.

“There are three things I’m concerned about: the underground water, the mining of prime agricultural land, and the mine which produces coal which will contribute to climate change and climate change will affect everybody on this planet.

“There were 50 farms that New Hope has taken over; those farms were highly productive, they were beef, dairy, piggeries, feedlots, even the flowers for the Sydney Olympic Games came off a property that is now covered over with overburden.”

Brymaroo farmer Frank Ashman said, “We are fighting tooth and nail to make sure this expansion doesn’t happen, but on the very off chance that it does happen, it will impact groundwater. Groundwater is one of the main things we survive upon and without groundwater the whole thing is buggered and the value of land is zilch.

Brymaroo farmer Lynn Ashman said, “Coal mining is short term, farming is long term. Coal mining is just for quick gain. 

“We have to think of the earth. Once the damage is done it’s irreparable. And we have to think of the water - once it starts going tinto that 75 metre hole it’s gone for good.”

Lock the Gate Alliance Spokesperson, Ellie Smith said, “New Hope has pulled out all stops to pressure the government to wave this approval through. We commend the Queensland Palaszczuk Government for standing firm in the face of this pressure and allowing the High Court to consider this matter properly before any further decisions are made by governments.

“Above all the community of Oakey must be commended for standing up to this corporate bully and fighting for the preservation of some of the best farming country in Queensland, and the underground water that sustains the farms and communities.”

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