A new analysis of the region earmarked for release to coal mining in Central West NSW has revealed what could be lost if Berejiklian Government plans are successful.
Public consultation is now underway into the proposed release of land known as Hawkins and Rumker 160km north west of Sydney, with consultation over a third parcel - known as Ganguddy-Kelgoola still to come.
The three mooted coal release parcels cover 60,369 hectares in a region where the economy is currently built around sustainable agriculture and nature-focused tourism. There are also large areas of public land and more than 84% native vegetation cover.
The report, based on spatial analysis conducted by Earthscapes Consulting, shows the risks the community, existing industries, and the environment face if coal mining is allowed to proceed in the region.
Within the three “strategic coal release areas”, the consultants found:
- Forty-five recorded Aboriginal heritage sites and an additional 13 sites that are restricted and location data not supplied in the proposed coal release areas.
- Twenty-two threatened fauna species and six threatened flora species including the koala, the critically endangered regent honeyeater and the endangered spotted-tailed quoll, as well as four plant species endemic to the Rylstone/western Wollemi area.
- One thousand, eight hundred and fifty-four hectares of groundwater dependant ecosystems.
- Six thousand, six hundred and thirty-four hectares of potential threatened ecological communities.
- Thirty-six water bores.
- One hundred and twenty kilometres of stream channels in good condition and 118 kilometres of stream channels classed as a high level of fragility.
The report also showed the potential coal release areas adjoin the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, stretching more than 100km along the western edge of the WHA.
This, at a time when the World Heritage Commission has asked the NSW Government for a cumulative impact assessment of mining impacts on the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. This assessment appears not to be complete, even though it was due by the end of 2020.
University of NSW environmental scientist, local, and writer, Dr Haydn Washington said, “The coal release areas are full of diverse and significant natural and cultural heritage.
“The Coricudgy and Nullo State Forests have already been recommended for addition to the World Heritage Area by the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area Committee.
“The report… rightly notes the significant botanical and faunal conservation values of the release areas. These values are highly significant and worthy of protection.”
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “Agriculture and nature based-tourism are the lifeblood of the local economy here. Allowing coal mining to infiltrate would bring an end to this, costing jobs and ruining a truly special place.
“There is strong local opposition to coal mining. Residents love the natural features of the landscape and do not want to see it open cut for coal mines and deal with the social ills that come with that.
“It is especially cruel to put these communities through this uncertainty given the forecasts released by NSW Treasury this week that see weaker prospects for thermal coal exports and a predicted contraction in the NSW coal industry over time.
“This is a time to be boosting the resilience of regional communities, not weakening it.” (see the Technical Paper on this issue released with the recent Intergenerational Report)