Protest marched - Leard anti-coal crusaders ordered to vacate camp

PROTESTERS waging war against mining companies operating in the Leard State Forest could be evicted from their new headquarters after complaints from residents.

The activists were last month forced by Narrabri Shire Council to vacate their original camp, under the threat of fines, following about 550 days spent in the forest.

Many moved onto private property owned by Maules Creek farmer Clifford Wallace, who has been a close ally in the fight against Whitehaven Coal’s planned 

$767 million mine.

But, following “numerous complaints from residents in relation to the increase in traffic, dust and noise”, council has written to Mr Wallace asking that they vacate his land.

General manager Diane Hood said the council had no choice but to investigate the legality of the camp once the complaints were received.

She said it was subsequently determined that the camp was positioned on land zoned “primary production” and camping was specifically prohibited.

“My understanding is that the residents who have complained have talked to the landowner and basically it’s just about the amount of traffic on the road,” she said.

“People are saying there’s now over 50 cars a day going up and down the road and it used to be just half a dozen (before the camp was established).”

Leard Forest Alliance spokeswoman Helen War said the latest development was yet another attempt to silence criticism of the area’s coalmining activities.

“The concerns about traffic, noise and dust from the coalmines are the very three concerns that Maules Creek residents have been fighting against for years,” she said.

“It’s outrageous now that they are choosing to harass us – and the property owner does consider it harassment – and that we’re finding out about this from the media.

“This is just another chapter in the ongoing circus that Narrabri Shire Council is trying to create against community protest.”

Ms War said it was “absolutely outrageous and down right not true” that more than 50 cars were going in and out of the camp on some days.

“We have had increased traffic from police, so perhaps they’re taking that into account given they’re almost harassing us by going up and down the road,” she said.

“I have no doubt there is incredible pressure put on the council by different parties, including those mining companies.”

Ms Hood denied any of the complaints were from mining companies and said the council had only given Mr Wallace a “notice of intention” that a formal order was imminent to allow both him and the campers to make representations before a decision was made.

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