North West NSW residents already under siege from the twin threats of drought and increased coal mining have been dealt yet another blow, according to community group Lock the Gate.
Lock the Gate has today slammed the NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts for giving the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) an absurdly short timeframe to conduct and complete its first public hearing for the proposed controversial Vickery Coal Mine expansion in the north west of the state.
The Minister imposed an arbitrary 12 week deadline on the Commission before guidelines for an untested new process had even been finalised, forcing the Commission to schedule the public hearing on 7 December and give local residents just over two weeks’ notice.
Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said Mr Roberts’ decision had fatally compromised the Commission's consideration of the controversial mine.
“This is an absurd case of putting the cart before the horse and damages community trust in the planning process,” she said.
“The Planning Minister has impinged on the IPC’s independence and added unnecessary stress to people’s lives when they should be winding down for Christmas after a tough year fighting the drought and this damaging new coal mine expansion.
“There is so much at stake here. If allowed to proceed, the mine expansion will have an irreversible impact on the historical property “Kurrumbede” – which inspired Dorothea MacKellar’s iconic poem “My Country”.
“Although they are not currently planning to bulldoze the homestead, it is at risk from damage due to mine blasting and air quality deterioration.
“A cottage on the property was also home to Australian freestyle champion Boy Charlton, who would swim in the nearby Namoi River during his time working as a jackaroo on the farm.
“The company planning the mine expansion, Whitehaven Coal, wants to build a rail line across the river near where Charlton swam, and have completely omitted the historical significance of Boy Charlton’s time at the property from its Environmental Impact Statement.
“We condemn the Planning Minister for fast tracking a coal mine expansion that will also damage farmland and water resources. We call on him and the Department of Planning to extend the IPC's deadline for conducting its public hearing so farming communities around Boggabri have time to engage properly in a process that will profoundly impact their lives.”