OCAA’s move into the legal side of life is well and truly underway in our attempt to stop stage 3 of the New Acland Coal (NAC) expansion.
Objectors have placed their submissions against the Department of Environment & Heritage Protection (EHP) accepting NAC’s Environment Authority.
This acceptance has forced OCAA into the land court for justice to prevail objecting against the departments decision.
The objectors have been involved in 3 direction hearings, one in Dalby the other two in Brisbane. They have been introduced to the land court member His Honour Mr. Smith and the legal might of the NAC legal representatives, QC Ambrose and two partners from Clayton Utz, Lawyers.
OCAA has been formally and willingly accommodated by the Environment Defenders Office (EDO) to defend our cause and beliefs. They have been working day and night preparing the situation for a formidable contest, negotiating with experts and legal counsel. An extremely tight court schedule has been ordered and the gathering of data, information, lay witness statements has been intense.
OCAA will provide experts in the fields of;
Groundwater hydrogeological modelling
Acoustic & vibration assessment
Air quality assessment
Economic assessment & modelling
Other individuals will contest health impacts and related issues.
OCAA members thank those that have so willingly provided testimony and insights into what may be the most controversial land court decision in Australian coal mining history. Politicians, mining companies and decision makers are looking with great interest and concern as to the decision His Honour Member Smith will make.
A massive amount of work is still yet to be done with an April/May decision looming. We don’t have the leisure of taking our eye off the ball as the heat intensifies.
OCAA does need help, and a donation area to assist in the ‘Fighting Fund’ is www.lockthegate.org.au/acland_donate small or large an input may well help change the course of Australian history … for the better!
A study of the potential for regional communities in QLD to embark on an economic transition away from a dependency on coal mining was undertaken this year by Just Transition Brisbane (JTB).
The specific research aim was to identify any potential barriers and/or opportunities in relation to this kind of economic transition taking place. The region of Oakey was identified as being an important case study for this research, due to the fact that the nearby Acland Coal Mine is currently applying to expand their mining operations.
Representatives of the five categories (government, agriculture, business/tourism, local community, social/environmental community organisations) were approached with a set of key questions and the answers to these questions have been presented in the Just Transitions: transitioning toward a mining free future report.
The following list of opportunities and recommendations summarise the findings of this important research project.
Opportunities for alternative economic development for the Oakey region include:
- Return to agriculture and related industries, eg. cropping, piggeries, and feedlots
- Possibility of expansion of meat works and army base
- Development of poultry industry
- Lightweight perishable crops distributed via Wellcamp airport
- Small business opportunities connected to agriculture, eg. rural supply
- New retail and residential opportunities to support the increase in business opportunities
- Alternative use of existing infrastructure to power new manufacturing industries
- Tourism that supports sustainability of the region’s natural resources and promotes cultural assets: eco-tourism, on-farm visits, B&Bs, food & beverage, and regional cuisine-based enterprises and festivals
- Establishment of alternative, renewable energy generation: wind and solar farms.
Recommendations to support possible alternative economic development:
- Facilitation of ongoing community engagement with state and local government representatives
- Widespread promotion of viable economic development opportunities for the region — especially in regards to job creation and re-skilling/up-skilling of locals
- Support from community and relevant stakeholders for development of locally-based economic action plan for transition
- Community support for the development of communications strategies to target identified stakeholders
- Facilitation of engagement activities with youth sectors of the Oakey region in relation to training and up-skilling for new/alternative industries
- Need for community engagement campaigns in relation to the reality of the long-term physical and environmental effects of mining
This important research responds to an urgent need to address the perception that regional communities must remain dependent on mining jobs in particular. And the findings contained in the report indicate that while this issue is both complicated and contested, there is growing support for both transition and diversification for regional economies throughout QLD.
(The information contained in the Just Transitions: Transitioning towards a mining free future report was identified as part of a Participatory Needs and Opportunities Assessment (PNOA) completed for the Master of Communication for Social Change at The University of Queensland.
The PNOA was undertaken on behalf of the Just Transitions Brisbane (JTB) group. JTB aim to work with communities traditionally economically dependent on mining in order to support a just transition — to a locally supported economy that is diverse and largely self-sufficient, and thus more sustainable and equitable in the long term).
A link to more information can be found here: Just Transitions Presentation 2015
Oakey Coal Action Alliance would like to thank the members of Just Transitions Brisbane for their interest and efforts in undertaking this pivotal study.
Article from the Queensland Times, published by Joel Gould on 19th Nov 2015
“THINK of the farmers, not the shareholders.
“That was a key message of more than 30 protesters outside the Ipswich Civic Centre yesterday as the New Hope Group AGM went on inside.
The concerned community members are opposed to New Hope’s planned expansion of stage three of the Acland mine on the Darling Downs and the proposed Colton mine on the Mary River, both of which they say will have devastating results for farmers, landholders and communities.
Lock the Gate spokesperson Kate Dennehy said there was a lot at stake for the community near the Acland mine.
“The concern for the Acland farmers is that a lot of them put money into their properties when the ALP and LNP both said stage three would not go through, but now it seems to be going through,” she said.
“The only choice they have now is to take it to the land court which is most unfair.
“They are trying to run their properties and at the same time they are up against the might of Clayton Utz lawyers who will be fighting to get this mine through. The farmers are going to lose their water resources, livelihoods and farms.
“Our message we are trying to send to the AGM shareholders is to think of the farmers before you vote to proceed with these coal mines which are a thing of the past.
“Instead of the shareholders thinking about what is going into their pockets, think of what is coming out of the farmers’ pockets.
“The way forward for Australia is renewables where there are more jobs.”
A fact sheet put out by Lock the Gate claimed that the proposed Acland expansion would result in the loss of more than 1300 hectares of strategic cropping land, cause drawdown in groundwater aquifers of up to 47m in some locations, worsen noise and air quality and impact negatively on threatened species, along with other adverse impacts.
The farmers who will be impacted by the Acland expansion were meeting their lawyers yesterday.
“The farmers involved in the land court case to do with Acland stage three wanted to be here today, but they and their lawyers could only get together on this day at this time,” Ms Dennehy said.
“But they have sent their support for us and our grateful for what we can do to get their message out.”
A New Hope Group spokesperson said the company respected the rights of people to express their views.
The spokesperson said that the protest by what it called activist groups appeared to be part of a wider campaign to stop the Australian coal industry.
“Our door is always open for anyone to come and talk to us about any issues they may have in a sensible and constructive way,” the spokesperson said.
Clancy Morrison of the 350.org, a worldwide climate change organisation was on hand to lend his voice to the protest.
“Our mandate is to solve the global climate crisis and a big part of that is keeping fossil fuels in the ground,” he said.
“Obviously New Hope is keen to dig up more than they have been and that is something we are keen to put a stop to.”
John Ingram, an anti-coal activist who wants to see the economy depend less on coal, said “over 80% of the royalties will not go to the Queensland Government”
“They will go to the owners of the property, which happen to be the mine.
“So the mine will be paying itself a majority of the royalties,” he said.”
Queensland Conservation Council media release on New Hope Coal (September 15):
News that New Hope Coal have a $1.1 billion cash pile to buy more coal mines has outraged South-East Queenslanders, who are wondering why coal trains moving through their communities don’t have covered wagons.
Queensland Conservation Council’s spokesperson Kirsten Macey is now asking New Hope Coal to put covers on their coal trains as they travel through South-East Queensland on their way to the Port of Brisbane.
“Coal companies use the excuse that putting lids on coal trains is too expensive,” said Ms Macey.
“But New Hope Coal have $1.1 billion in cash, and instead of looking to buy more coal, they should put lids on their coal trains to protect residents living adjacent to coal railway lines from coal dust.
“The health of residents in Toowoomba, Ipswich and Brisbane City and in between is impacted daily by coal dust that comes off coal trains.
“In fact, Queensland Conservation Council believes that to minimise the risk to our health, it’s not only the coal train wagons that should be covered, but also the coal that is stored at the mine site and at the ports.
“Covering coal trains is simply world’s best practice.
“QCC is calling for covers on all all coal wagons to ensure that coal dust pollution does not impact on the health of our community”, concluded Ms Macey.—Kirsten MaceyQueensland Conservation Council“I don’t understand why when we destroy something created by man we call it vandalism, but when we destroy something by nature we call it progress.” ― Ed Begley Jr.
The Stage 3 expansion of the New Hope mine at Acland has always been a controversial one. The proposed site is located on the heavily settled inner Darling Downs on land used for cropping, dairying and mixed farming for 5 generations. It is a stone’s throw from communities like Acland, Oakey, Jondaryan and Brymaroo with all the harmful dust and noise pollution and heavy vehicle traffic associated with a large open cut coal mining operation. At a time when over 85% of Queensland is drought declared and international experts are telling us that water and food security are the most important issues facing mankind in the future, we had a Government seemingly hell bent on facilitating this mine and others.
Despite OCAA members being familiar with the potential environmental, health, social and environmental impacts of this project and horrified by the prospect of it going ahead, we were still surprised at just how much Acland- and the nefarious dealings of New Hope Coal and the Newman Government- featured during the election campaign!
Some say it was the timing of the January election, fast on the heels of the Coordinator General approval of the project a few days before Christmas 2014 as the Government was entering a recess period. Others state the influence of radio broadcaster Alan Jones, whose Acland upbringing has always meant this issue was deeply personal to him. Alan has had one message, repeated like a mantra over and over during the past 5 years- keep mining out of Australia’s food bowls and many Queenslanders apparently agreed with him.
The backflip of LNP politicians such as Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and others, who categorically declared in the lead up to the 2012 election that the LNP would not support any expansion on prime agricultural land, including Acland and Felton did not auger well for them. These pollies may have regained their safe seats, but for many country people their sense of betrayal ran deep.
Then there was the tidal wave of submissions, planning reforms, Bills and Acts which branded the Newman-Seeney Government era. Landholders, concerned community members and environmental NGO’s were tied up for more than two years by a mess of bureaucratic red tape, deadlines, inquiries and hearings. Countless hours of time spent away from family and businesses led to frustration, ill health and even anguish…especially when it became increasingly apparent that this Government had some master plan to roll out preferential treatment to the mining industry above agriculture, rural communities, small businesses, manufacturing or tourism. Country people were left confused by the speed and extent of reforms, despairing and angry at the arrogance of a Government who were not listening to, or understanding of, rural issues. Communities lost their rights to object in the Land Court, and the resource sector was even given unprecedented access to Queensland’s precious water supplies.
The issue of coal royalties being retained by New Hope was also raised during the election. It has since been confirmed that a 1910 Queensland Mining Act loophole ensures a mere 7% of the royalties payable on coal dug from Acland district farms finds its way into our state coffers. A recent Guardian newspaper headline declared ‘The State to be a Major Loser in Acland Royalty Payouts’, with an estimated $450 million from Stage 3 and $1 billion over the life of the project withheld. No wonder New Hope wants this expansion so desperately! http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/jul/03/queensland-mine-expansion-state-to-be-a-major-loser-in-acland-royalty-payouts
The stakes arehigh at Acland, and New Hope money has flowed through the corridors of George St and country towns like Oakey, Jondaryan, Goombungee and beyond.The amount of money slipped to the state and federal LNP since 2012 was staggering, with some estimating over $1 million. Likewise community donations over the past few years have increased to an extent directly proportional to the project risk and national outcry against mining good quality agricultural land. Our local newspapers are also full of company propaganda and accompanying ‘smiling assassin’ photographs of cheques changing hands.
In order to form Government the Anna Palaszczuk Labour party teamed with independent Peter Wellington, who made a list of conditions including review of the Acland approval process. The behaviour of New Hope Coal and the impacts of the Stage 3 Acland project are still under scrutiny and there are many more hurdles to cross before any final Mining Lease approval occurs .
Acland is a metaphor. It is a hardly-there place maybe, with a community decimated by a coal company but not cowed, and with the moral stance of one individual inspiring a movement that said ‘We are Australian. We have rights to breathe clean air and have water for our farms and we have the right to remain living in a home, or farm, of our choosing.’
Have a look at these two photos again and ask yourself what type of Darling Downs we should be aiming for- a hole in the ground or productive farmland and safe water supplies?
Please watch this space…and come back to visit this website soon for more updates.
Also spotted was a nice old Bedford truck once owned by member Bobby and her late husband Joe Connelly, now restored and holding vegetable displays from around the district.
Did you know 90% of Australia’s winter vegies come from this Valley? Too precious to put it’s water at risk.
On line submission available from http://www.sixdegrees.org.au/content/make-submission-new-acland-coal-mine-expansion
Further information about the project here:
(Thanks to Six Degrees and Stop Brisbane Coal Trains for image)