This afternoon's judgment in the NSW Land and Environment Court, rejecting the O'Farrell Government's attempt to bankrupt the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group, is a victory for common sense and an embarrassing rebuff for the government, according to the Lock The Gate Alliance.
Justice Rachel Pepper knocked back a bid by the the Department of Trade and Investment to force the residents group to foot the government's legal bill, following the group's unsuccessful legal challenge to the approval of pilot coal seam gas wells at Fullerton Cove, just north of Newcastle on the edge of the city's water supply. The government's legal team failed to convince Justice Pepper that the residents acted in their own self interest in lodging their case, with the judge confirming that the group had indeed acted in the public interest.
Justice Pepper ordered the Department to pay the residents group's legal bill for this week's hearing, and found that both parties will pay their own legal bills for the previous case.
“This judgment is very welcome, and confirms that community groups have an important role to play in holding governments to account, and representing the public interest”, said Steve Phillips, Hunter regional coordinator for the Lock The Gate Alliance. “This volunteer-run local residents group has fought to protect the public's clean air and clean water, taking on the might of a global gas company and the NSW Government. If that's not acting in the public interest, then I don't know what is.”
“This is an embarrassing rebuff for the O'Farrell Government, which is making a habit of siding with mining companies against communities.”
“The proposed overhaul of the Planning Act and changes to the Mining SEPP, both designed to tip the scales in favour of mining approvals; the Supreme Court action with Rio Tinto against the people of Bulga; and now this – attempting to bankrupt a volunteer-run local residents group. The O'Farrell Government was elected to fix the conflict between mining and community needs, but they are doing the exact opposite.”
“Community groups will continue to fight for protection of our rights, and for the protection of land and water from destruction by mining companies. We call on Barry O'Farrell to switch sides, and join us,” said Phillips.