The Baird Government should look across the border to Queensland to see what can happen to governments that repeatedly put mining interests above those of people, the Lock the Gate Alliance warned today.
The warning came as Premier Mike Baird flew in via helicopter to officially open the controversial Maules Creek coal mine for Whitehaven Coal, and then flew out without even attempting to meet the local community whose water supplies and health are at risk from it.
Members of the local community were waiting down the road - waiting in vain to have their voices heard by the FIFO Premier.
National Coordinator of Lock the Gate Phil Laird said the NSW government’s unquestioned support for the coal industry in approving three new coal mines and expansions this week could cost it heavily at the coming election.
“People are tired of the rhetoric and the mutual back-scratching for mining companies by our political leaders,” Mr Laird said.
“In the election on the weekend, Queenslanders rejected the LNP 'mining-at-all-costs' agenda and their lack of respect for impacted communities.
“We're saddened to hear today that the Premier has thrown his weight behind a controversial mine at Maules Creek, having never looked into the questionable approval process, and without hearing first from farmers and indigenous Traditional Owners who have been affected by it.
"It seems the NSW Government has stopped listening to communities. That is not something to celebrate.
"It doesn't help with perceptions when the current CEO of the NSW Minerals Council is a former Chief of Staff to Mike Baird, and that the Premier has promised to 'crack down' on communities who are opposed to ill-considered mining, at the apparent behest of the Council.
"Clearly, the coal industry has access to government that regular folks out in communities don't have. That doesn't meet the test for fairness or openness in government.
"We've repeatedly asked to meet with the Premier, but have been rebuffed. We'd like to offer him again an opportunity to meet with communities who are directly threatened by mining, and hear what the experience is like for them. We're concerned he's only getting one side of the story.
"Lock the Gate and other grassroots movements played a real role in the Queensland election and will do likewise in the NSW election. The LNP’s “strong plan” campaign message in Qld was derailed early on by the Acland Coal mine donations scandal and momentum was lost from there.
"Communities mobilised and took to social media to share their discontent, playing a key role in the political shift which occurred.
“The NSW government’s approval of Chinese coal miner Shenhua’s Watermark mine on the world renowned Liverpool Plains will impact on land and water and on one of our most productive food bowls.
“Deaf to the outcry this decision raised, the Baird Government then gave the go-ahead this week to the expansion of the Moolarben coal mine near Mudgee and Rio Tinto’s Bengalla Mine Continuation Project near Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley.
“Mega coal mines in combination with CSG with their associated environmental issues are set to be among the key issues in the upcoming NSW election.”