COURT UPDATE: Latest news on the court case against New Hope expansion

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 hydrogeology

Groundwater hydrogeological modelling

Acoustic & vibration assessment

Air quality assessment

Economic assessment & modelling

Agricultural economics

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!

TRANSITIONING FROM A COAL MINING FUTURE?? YES WE CAN!

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).

A picture of a solar array in a field in Portugal.

Serpa solar plant in Portugal. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org.

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.

“New Hope AGM: Shareholders told to think of farmers.”

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.

Photo by Rob Miles, copyright Queensland Times 2015.

Photo by Rob Miles, copyright Queensland Times 2015.

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.”

Please donate to stop Acland Stage 3

 

OAKEY GROUP MOVES TO CHALLENGE ACLAND STAGE 3 IN COURT

A local community group, Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA), has launched legal action against the Acland Stage 3 coal expansion on the Darling Downs in Queensland.

The group lodged a formal submission to the project and last week made a final decision to pursue an objection to the damaging New Hope Coal expansion in the Queensland Land Court.

The group is comprised of farmers and residents from the local area and surrounds who will be affected by the proposed mine expansion. Frank and Lynn Ashman are beef cattle stud owners at Brymaroo, on the Downs and Mr Ashman is OCAA president.

“The Acland Stage 3 coal expansion represents a serious threat to our farms, our livelihoods and the health of our local community,” Mr Ashman said.

“We have taken the very difficult step of objecting to the project in the Land Court because of the severe and unacceptable impacts it will have on the environment and our community.

“Our case will be that the expansion should not proceed because of the impacts it will have on many aspects including groundwater resources, important farming land and the health of local families.

“The mine will destroy 1,300 hectares of Strategic Cropping Land located on the fertile soils of our nationally significant food-bowl on the Darling Downs.

It will cause groundwater aquifers to drop by up to 47 metres in some locations and will leave final holes or ‘voids’ that will cover more than 450 hectares.

“The expansion will worsen air quality for people and farmers surrounding the mine, most of whom are already living with degraded air quality from the current mine.

“We will also contend in court that the costs of this expansion to Queensland far outweigh any public benefits, particularly as mine proponent has estimated that it pays 77 per cent of royalties to itself and only seven per cent to the State Government.”

OCAA will be represented in the Land Court by lawyers from community legal centre, Environmental Defenders Office (Qld).

“Today we’re also calling on people all across Australia to support our local community because we can’t do this alone,” Mr Ashman said.

“We’re asking for our supporters to donate to the Acland fighting fund that has been launched today by Lock the Gate and will be used to support the campaign against this dangerous coal mine.”

People can donate to the fighting fund, launched by Lock the Gate Alliance, for the continued campaign against the Acland Stage 3 coal expansion at: www.lockthegate.org.au/acland_donate

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection must refer objections to the Land Court by the end of this week then the case is expected to begin within about a month.

 

Cashed up, but where is the duty of care?

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 Macey
Queensland 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.

WORST DROUGHT ON RECORD BUT NEW HOPE WANTS TO USE 9 BILLION LITRES OF WATER PER ANNUM

From High Country Herald, 4th August 2015.

The text reads:

“Queensland is in the grip of the worst drought on record with more than 80% of the state drought declared.

After three failed wet seasons, Queensland now has more areas affected by drought than any other state or territory.

32 entire local government areas and three part local governments areas (LGA’s) are currently drought declared, with another 66 Individually Droughted Property Declarations in an additional 6 LGA’s.

The harsh impacts of drought place communities, rural businesses, families, livestock, crops and the environment under extreme pressure”. HCH 4.8.15

So this begs a simple question from OCAA and many Australians, directed at the Queensland and Federal Government- why should a single coal company (which admits contributes only 7% of coal royalties from coal sales to the Crown), be allowed to utilise 9 billion litres of water per annum for the purpose of washing its filthy coal, and spraying its dusty roads?

 We don’t care where the water comes from, or how much New Hope claim they ‘recycle’: many more  farms will close over the life of this mine. This is a sheer travesty in a world with unprecedented need for clean water and food.

 

UNITED WE STAND!

 

A Greenwood Hill barley crop. This strategic cropping land is threatened by Stage 3.

A Greenwood Hill barley crop. This strategic cropping land is threatened by Stage 3.

A major decision is looming for residents of the Darling Downs, particularly those living and operating farms in the Acland district. The Queensland Department of Environment & Heritage Protection and  Department of Natural Resources & Mines have received Submissions and Objections from concerned citizens who oppose the Stage 3 New Hope Group open cut coal mine at Acland.

 Two local groups have recently joined forces in their opposition to this controversial project. Oakey Coal Action Alliance Inc. a long term, respected incorporated community group have been instrumental in the monitoring of fine airborne coal particulates, and pressuring the proponent to relocate coal loading facilities from Jondaryan. Another group,Water at Risk, are local dairy and pig farmers, graziers and croppers who are very concerned as to underground water being depleted and their livelihoods jeopardised if Stage 3 proceeds. 

 Both groups have similar concerns with the proposed expansion which encompass groundwater deprivation, destruction of strategic cropping land, contamination of prime agricultural land, pollution of creeks and streams, airborne coal contaminants and respiratory health risks, noise and light pollution, social disruption, and animal habitat destruction.

Members of both groups have raised concerns about management plans within the Additional Information to the Environmental Impact Statement (AEIS) and New Hope’s supposed ‘make good’ provisions.

OCAA and WAR say the devil is in the detail of the AEIS and the Coordinator General report. 1,361 Ha of Strategic Cropping Land (SCL) will be destroyed, high quality land capable of producing wheat, barley, oats, corn, sorghum, millet and other crops for hundreds of years to come.

The AEIS also states that water will be taken from surrounding bores at a rate of 3.5 Mega litres per day,  and operational water will be consumed at 24 Ml per day.  This is 8.9 billion litres per year or 36,000 Olympic sized swimming pools just to suppress dust and wash coal.

198 private bores within a distance of 21 Km from the mine are expected  to be affected by drawdown, some aquifers dropping by 47 meters .

Three residual lakes (left over mine pits) will continue to fill from aquifers to an equilibrium level some 200-300 years hence!

 

Acland Stage 3 has still more hurdles to cross before any Mining Lease is decided, and this week moves were made by the Labour Party and Katter Australia Party to restore community rights to oppose such projects in the Land Court, rights which were stripped away by the LNP in 2014.

 

The combined landholder groups will fly under the banner of OCAA. They know many Australians are adamantly opposed to this mine and others threatening our food producing land, and want to offer help with any future actions. This website www.ocaa.com.au will provide more information. Support can be via joining the group, offering donations, or helping to spread the word about OCAA’s future campaigns. Please join the group and support OCAA upcoming objections in the land Court, where the AEIS and other information will be independently scrutinised.

Remember our groups are not anti-development or anti-jobs- far from it! We are fighting simply for the right to continue farming on the inner Darling Downs. Farming is sustainable and creates significant jobs, and cash-flow for local businesses. Proper independent scrutiny of destructive projects, like Acland Stage 3, is the civil right of rural communities like ours.