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Planning Department rejects Southern Highlands coal plan, hopes high that IPC will do the same

Lock the Gate Alliance welcomes the Planning Department’s decision to once again reject the destructive Hume Coal and associated Berrima Rail Project, which would ravage the Southern Highlands if built.

It’s the second time the department has recommended against the POSCO-owned greenfield proposal, with the company submitting an updated plan following the last refusal.

However in its latest scathing assessment, the department once again noted “strong opposition to the project from the local and broader community”.

The department also said the site was “not suitable for a greenfield coal mine given the rural-residential and small-scale agricultural land use of the area, along with the growing tourism and heritage landscape focus, and the predicted impacts on these land uses”. 

As well, the department found the proposed coal mine would have “significant groundwater drawdown impacts”, and “the safety risks associated with the mine design… may lead to the need to discharge mine water into surface waterbodies and Sydney’s drinking water catchment”.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Nic Clyde said it was extremely rare for the Planning Department to reject a coal mine, and its latest decision to do so demonstrated just how gobsmackingly inappropriate Hume Coal’s proposal was.

“This is such welcome news for the Southern Highlands community, which has fought tooth and nail over nearly a decade to send Hume Coal packing,” he said.

“We sincerely hope this is the final nail in the coffin for what would have been a truly disastrous project.

“The Department of Planning has quite clearly said that this coal mine is not appropriate and should be refused consent in order to protect drinking water, local agriculture, tourism and the outstanding cultural heritage of the Southern Highlands.

“This is great news, but we do wish the department applied this same level of rigour and scrutiny to other, similarly unwelcome and destructive coal and gas proposals across the state.”

In line with planning law, the proposal will once again progress to the Independent Planning Commission for a public hearing.

“While the department’s decision is cause for celebration, there is still a final decision to be made by the Independent Planning Commission, and it’s crucial that commissioners listen to the community and reject this project,” Mr Clyde said.

Hume Coal proposed mining up to 3.5 million tonnes of coal each year for 19 years and building a new railway spur to ship the product.


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