AS OF Wednesday morning, almost 100 people had registered to speak at the upcoming public hearings on the Vickery coal mine extension.
Speakers will get the chance to address the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) panel, which is considering the Whitehaven Coal proposal at meetings in Boggabri and Gunnedah next Monday and Tuesday.
Speakers had until 5pm on Wednesday to register. A spokesperson for the Independent Planning Commission told The Leader they wouldn’t be surprised if there was a last-minute surge in applications before the deadline.
The speakers are split roughy fifty-fifty between the Gunnedah and Boggabri hearings.
In December, the IPC put off the Gunnedah meeting the day before it was due to be held, after it was deemed the 83 registered speakers would take 14 hours to get through.
The second meeting was later added, and registrations were reopened.
A spokesperson for Whitehaven Coal welcomed the interest from speakers.
“We are looking forward to the Public Hearing and to all stakeholders being able to have their say in such a forum,” the spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday night.
“We expect a range of perspectives will be expressed on the day, but we know that over 60 per cent of the submissions received by DPE in relation to Vickery strongly support the Project proceeding and the new wave of local jobs and investment it will create.
“Community feedback has always been a critical focus for Whitehaven and has helped shape the Vickery Extension Project and Whitehaven's engagement with the local community more broadly.”
Number of speakers shows deep concern: Lock the Gate
Environmental group Lock the Gate has urged the IPC to listen to the people at the upcoming hearings.
“The Planning Minister tried to blindside the people of north west NSW by fast tracking the public consultation and imposing an impossible timeframe on the commission,” spokeswoman Georgina Woods said..
“At a time when farmers are struggling against a crippling drought and brutal heatwaves, the effect of this mining proposal on water, and the amount of water it will consume, will be front of mind for many.
“We are expecting large numbers of concerned locals to attend these public hearings, despite the drought.
“In addition, Vickery would have an unpredictable impact on nearby Kurrumbede, the former home of renowned Australian poet, Dorothea Mackellar.
“Australian champion swimmer Boy Charlton also used to train in the Namoi River near the proposed mine. This region is rich in Australian history, yet the NSW Government appears ready to ignore these priceless values in return for a quick buck from mining royalties.”
The Vickery public hearings will take place over two days, at Boggabri RSL Memorial Club on Monday, February 4 and at Gunnedah Town Hall, on Tuesday, February 5, with both starting at 9am.