Aboriginal elders joined local farmers, federal MP Tony Windsor, Gunnedah mayor Owen Hasler, councillors and Gunnedah residents on Tuesday night at a second special meeting to examine mining and the impacts on our region.
Author and guest speaker Sharyn Munro outlined what she said were insights from communities across Australia that had fallen victim to the spread and impacts of mining.
“It felt very significant to have such strong representation from the elders last night, speaking out about the impacts of mining they have felt across the region and asking critical questions about the region’s future,” she said yesterday.
Northwest Alliance member and Wilalla farmer Alistair Donaldson presented Mr Windsor with a certificate acknowledging the 8375 home owners in the New England electorate producing solar energy.
“I believe solar presents a huge opportunity for households and for power production across North West NSW,” he said.
Mr Donaldson said he was concerned about the economic benefits from mining and believed they were “a farce”.
“At Boggabri, the actual business centre is not thriving, but Tamworth is booming,” he said.
“A certain amount of people are coming from Tamworth in and out, but maybe people all flock to major centres and spend our money there, instead of supporting the small towns, which is a bit upsetting.
“In Gunnedah’s main two blocks we counted nine empty shops. It’s great for builders, great for real estate agents and people who sell alcohol and sandwiches, but a lot of other businesses I don’t believe are getting the business.”
Mr Donaldson said water was, of course, of great concern to him and he was worried about the industrialisation of where he lived by coal seam gas and mining companies.
“The economic data just doesn’t stack up, because the Queensland Valuer-General’s department devalues land as soon as the first (coal seam gas) well goes in, by 2 to 20 per cent, averaging 12 per cent,” he said.
“There are areas near Gunnedah where properties are moving slowly, if at all, and there is evidence to suggest coal seam gas has had a huge effect on that.”
Mr Donaldson said he didn’t believe resources companies could be trusted.
“They’re only interested in one thing,” he said.
“They should bugger off in this district. We have started the coal seam gas-free community initiative and Mullaley had a 98.5 per cent vote of no to coal seam gas, in a survey of all residents. On the southern end of the Liverpool Plains, they’re getting an 80 per cent vote to be coal seam gas-free at the meetings. When the surveys are done, they’re coming up to nearly 100 per cent. It all depends whether there are people out there who are willing to stand back and let it happen, and if they’re willing to accept their bull**** and rhetoric, it just comes and they wine and dine them and it’s all warm and fuzzy.”
Mr Windsor said surveys getting 100 per cent support from every landholder, such as in the Bellata petroleum exploration licence area, were politically powerful.
“I’ve never seen that before in my political career, where a whole community within an exploration licence says we don’t want you here,” he said.
“I couldn’t conceive of any government making a move on a community that was totally opposed to something. It would be a fairly game government, anyway, particularly in some of the better farming country, to make a move against the wishes of all the people. Mining companies usually work by dividing the community, but where you have 100 per cent of people saying no and such support in communities like Mullaley, it’s an incredibly powerful thing. Legally it means nothing, but politically it means a lot.”
Mr Windsor said the meeting and discussion of health effects of mining and coal seam gas exploration reinforced the need for baseline scientific studies of fine-particle emissions and noise, which were issues he’d take up with various people in Canberra. There was another meeting in Narrabri last night, and tonight there will be a meeting at the Moree Town Hall at 6.30. There are two follow-up meetings planned – in Tamworth on Monday, March 11, at 6.30pm at the community centre, and Gunnedah on Tuesday, March 12, at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.