Council backflip on Wilpinjong disappoints Wollar residents

EDITORIAL:Council should not desert Wollar

Five Mid-Western Regional Councillors voted to erase Council’s objections to Wilpinjong Coal’s latest mine modification at an ordinary meeting on Wednesday.

The move is a backflip from the report and recommendation of Council’s planning staff. Now Council’s submission on the modification to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment does not carry the same weight as many Wollar residents were expecting.

Mid-Western Regional Council mayor Des Kennedy moved the alternate submission and it was seconded by Cr Max Walker.

Speaking against the motion, Cr Lucy White asked why, at 4pm on Wednesday, was there a change in Cr Kennedy’s opinion considering Council business papers had been on display for about a week.

Cr Kennedy simply said he “didn’t agree with the submission”.

Yesterday Wollar Progress Association’s Bev Smiles expressed her disappointment about Council’s backflip.

“The staff at Mid-Western Regional Council put a considered recommendation up to the Council and five councillors voted against lodging an objection. This indicates that they are not prepared to help protect the people of the Shire from increasing mine impacts,” she said.

Councillors White, Thompson and Martens were opposed to Cr Kennedy’s amendment.

“The Wollar community has been suffering for eight years from increasing noise, dust and odour problems from the mine. The Wilpinjong mine is big enough, has approval to mine until 2021 and should not be lodging ongoing development applications to expand its operations,” Ms Smiles said.

Yesterday Wilpinjong Coal general manager, Blair Jackson, said the mine is a significant contributor to the prosperity of the Mid-Western Regional Council area “and takes its responsibility to the environment and the community seriously.”

“The key environmental assessments completed for the modification indicate it is unlikely to lead to any significant change in dust levels at privately owned properties and that the mine would continue to operate within noise criteria described in the existing project approval,” he said.

“Wilpinjong Coal will continue to work with the local community to minimise impacts in accordance with our license conditions.

“We are committed to responsible environmental management and operate within strict environmental conditions as required by the regulators.”

The Wollar Progress Association was supported by 16 members at Council’s open day and three speakers presented the range of impacts Wilpinjong has had on the Wollar area.

Wollar Progress Association vice-president, John Jakes, was backed by a standing ovation throughout his speech.

Wollar’s Amanda Chetcuti and her family are on the last privately owned property within Wilpinjong’s noise management area and she said there was coal dust on her roof and inside her house – a world away from when she moved to the area in 2003.

The Association said they are aware of other Councils in the Hunter Valley supporting their rural communities by lodging objections to proposed mine expansions.

Wilpinjong Coal will now consider and respond to the Modification Six submissions by regulators and the community.

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