Lock the Gate Alliance is calling on politicians to take a deep breath this World Environment Day and get serious about fixing the Hunter region’s worsening air quality.
This year’s theme is ‘air pollution’, and LTGA spokesperson Georgina Woods said it was an issue that unfortunately impacted the lives on Hunter residents on a daily basis.
“Last year was the worst year for air pollution in the Upper Hunter since monitoring began in 2012, with particulate pollution PM10 levels exceeding national standards in five towns and villages," she said.
“This is a direct result of new and expanded open cut coal mines in the area and further expansion plans are still being considered.”
“This year, there have already been 90 instances across 11 monitoring stations that have experienced daily average PM10 above the 24-hour standard. Local doctors have told the Independent Planning Commission about the effect this air pollution is having on people’s health but we need political leadership to clear the air."
The concerning data comes two years after Government initiatives to tackle air pollution stalled and at a time when the Independent Planning Commission is being asked to approve a new mine - the United Wambo project - near Jerrys Plains in the central Hunter Valley where air pollution is worst.
It also follows a letter that was sent in September last year signed by more than 100 people from the Hunter region, including 30 doctors, to the Ministers for Health and Environment asking them to visit and take action to improve air quality in the region. So far this hasn’t occurred.
Ms Woods said the United Wambo expansion should not be allowed to go ahead because it would further threaten the health of residents in the region and that the Government must finalise its stalled Clean Air for NSW strategy and review of the EPA’s load-based pollution licencing scheme.
“People are already getting sick from the sheer volume of air pollution the coal mines are creating in the Hunter and we need strong contemporary regulation that actually protects people’s health,” she said.
Reachtell polling from late last year showed 84.2 per cent of Singleton and Muswellbrook residents who were questioned agreed that Hunter locals should not be subjected to air pollution levels from coal dust that exceed national thresholds. Close to 70 per cent were strongly in agreement.