Quipolly farmers win court case against government, grant access to Whitehaven's Werris Creek coal mine groundwater documents

VITAL DATA: The group hopes the documents gives some insight into how the government regulates the impacts coal mines have on groundwater supplies. Photo: Gareth Gardner

VITAL DATA: The group hopes the documents gives some insight into how the government regulates the impacts coal mines have on groundwater supplies. Photo: Gareth Gardner

LIVERPOOL Plains farmers have won a court case against the state government, forcing them to hand over documents about the regulation of groundwater at Whitehaven Coal’s Werris Creek coal mine.

Members of the community are worried about the mine’s impact on groundwater – and particularly on the Quipolly Creek, which is near the mine.

Quipolly Water Action Group spokesman and local farmer, Rod Grant, said the documents were “very technical”, so the group would engage a groundwater consultant to go through them.

“Now we’ve got more information to make sure the mine is doing the right thing,” Mr Grant said.

While the bore water levels on Mr Grant's property have remained relatively stable, he has friends and family who had “lost 100 per cent of their water”.

“It’s very dire for those families, they’ve had to sell all of their livestock,” he said.

Previous attempts by the group to access the information were refused by NSW Department of Primary Industries Water (DPI Water), on the grounds that the information was commercial and therefore sensitive.

The NSW Information Commissioner found this position was not justified, but the Commissioner’s finding was not binding, so the group took the matter to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Environmental Defenders Office chief executive Sue Higginson said the win was significant “for everyone in NSW”.

“With the release of this information, we’ll gain invaluable insight into the ways that DPI Water regulates the impacts of coal mines across the state,” Ms Higginson said.

“It’s absolutely imperative that the community knows what affect mines are having on groundwater and how the government is regulating those impacts.”

The government maintains there was no evidence to suggest the mine was having an impact on ground water levels. The Leader understands the release occurred with the consent of all parties, though some names were redacted.

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