Farmers on the Liverpool Plains joined forces in a main street walk in Gunnedah this morning, as they rallied to stop Shenhua Watermark Coal from pushing ahead with an open cut mine near Breeza.
Around 400 people united in a show of strength to protect the Liverpool Plains, ahead of a public hearing with the independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) which began this afternoon.
In what was a peaceful protest, the Liverpool Plains community along with others who support their cause, walked down Conadilly Street, in an attempt to get a message to the NSW government about the importance of agricultural production and the potential risk to vital underground water supplies and farmland.
It was organised by the Caroona Coal Action Group and Save Our Soils (SOS) Liverpool Plains.
“This is in support of the sustainable agriculture of the Liverpool Plains. The community, as a whole, has enormous concerns about the agricultural viability of mining development if this project is allowed to go ahead on the scale that is proposed,” Caroona Coal Action Group spokesperson Tim Duddy said.
Third generation landholders, NSW Farmers, Namoi Water, Gunnedah residents, Gomeroi Elders and environmentalists, were among those who marched this morning, chanting “Protect our water, protect our land, city and country united we stand”.
It follows concerns about Shenhua’s proposed mine plan, its water modelling and the new Gateway and government processes which farmers say they have little faith in.
“I believe the Shenhua water modelling was very poor and as the Independent Scientific Expert Committee found, it just doesn’t add up and doesn’t meet the requirements,” SOS Liverpool Plains spokeswoman Rosemary Nankivell said.
“Today’s walk shows there are huge community concerns. For every one farmer that has turned up, there’s another three at home working, trying to get the sowing done and keeping the wheels turning on their properties.”
Sharon Brown, whose family are third generation farmers with land in the Shenhua Exploration Licence area, said the mine would affect their livelihood.
“If we lose our water, we lose our farm, our income,” she said.
“We are concerned about the impact on water and not just on the floodplains, but the impact on the hills which is in our catchment area.
“The government sees a bucket of money in this, and will do anything it can do to get it.”
Mr Duddy today took aim at Shenhua’s own water science, calling it “half-baked” and “rushed” to avoid scrutiny under new laws and agricultural assessments.
NSW Farmers President Fiona Simson also raised questions about the coal miner’s studies.
“The Independent Scientific Expert Committee has raised enormous issues about the methodology, about how they’ve established whether or not there are cumulative impacts, about how they’ve determined the connection between the coal seam and the Great Artisan Basin – yet we see the Department of Planning’s response was just that Shenhua must buy water,” Ms Simson said.
“We have huge concerns about that and we do not want a mine to go ahead in an area that will create impacts, not just on one or two generations, but many generations.
“We’ve mapped some of our water, we’ve mapped agricultural land, the Namoi Water Study was the first of its kind. It seems extraordinary that we are here discussing an open cut coal project.”