WHILE local farmers were frustrated by comments “putting personal gain over the bigger picture” at the Vickery public hearing in Gunnedah, the final decision will rest on the shoulders of an independent panel.
It was very apparent the people speaking for it had a direct financial gain from the project’s approval.- Farmer James Barlow
Now that the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has held public hearings in Gunnedah and Boggabri, the panel will now compile a report identifying the key issues, which will guide the full assessment by the NSW Department of Planning.
It’s hope the reported will be finalised by the end of March, however it may be later given the public hearings were pushed back from December to February.
James Barlow, a farmer who’s property is directly across from the mine on the opposite side of the Namoi River, said he was frustrated by some of the comments at the Gunnedah hearing on Tuesday.
“It was very apparent the people speaking for it had a direct financial gain from the project’s approval,” he said.
“They also argued passionately that they needed it, but we’ve got a lot of coal in the region and that’s not the last reserve in the [Gunnedah] basin.
“This is a particularly sensitive area. We have an issue with balance when it comes to coal mines and we’ve got to find it.”
Whitehaven Coal CEO Paul Flynn said community feedback had always been a critical focus for the company, which would be used to help shape the project.
“I think the IPC has to be applauded for bringing the process to town and it was good to get a sense of the cross section of views around the extension project itself,” Mr Flynn said.
“It was great to hear from our supporters in the local community and we thank them for their contribution.
“At the same time, we also have a good sense of some of the issues and concerns that came up over the two days and we'll be working hard to address many of these through the response to submissions process.”
An IPC spokesperson said once the report had been handed over to the NSW Department of Planning the “issues of concern will be at forefront, and the Department will know what it needs to look at”.
Once the NSW government has finalised its assessment, the project will come back to the IPC, who will make the final call.