Farmers, councillors, business people and a solicitor addressed the Independent Planning Commission on the Vickery extension project on Tuesday, as the public hearings into the Whitehaven project continued.
More than 50 people had registered to speak at Gunnedah Town Hall on the second day of the hearings.
The first several spoke in favour of the project or of Whitehaven’s contribution to the area, before affected farmers spoke of their fears.
“Several business owners have told me that if not for the mining industry, they would be stretched to the limit,” the first speaker, shire councillor Gae Swain, said.
Farmers Trent Hall and Lloyd Spencer listed the benefits they’d had from selling their properties to the mining company and leasing them back.
Mr Hall said the company had been easy to work with, and Mr Spencer said it had enabled him to expand his beef operation.
However, James Barlow, who owns a farm across the Namoi River from the mine, said “we must be more sustainable protecting people and the water”.
“I’m speaking for my eight-month old daughter, who cannot speak for her future,” Mr Barlow said.
"Anger, betrayal, sad, fear - these are all depressing words and they live with me on a daily basis. It’s already taking it's toll on me and my family because of the uncertainty.
"What happened to a fair go? How will my family be protected?”
Warwick Giblin, a solicitor speaking on behalf of two farming families, said: “They fear being dismissed as collateral damage in the pursuit of short-term jobs and profit.”
The hearing continues this afternoon.
Boggabri has its say at independent hearing
Yesterday, 47 speakers spoke to the panel at a hearing in Boggabri.
They included Boggabri Business and Community Progress Association president John Shaw, who shared residents’ concerns about the proximity of proposed water bores to the town’s water supply; air quality; and lack of community involvement from the workforce.
“I stated that Boggabri was a pro-mining town and had been for 50 years but my residents had grave concerns over the fact that they were going to put nine water bores close to our water supply, which could [affect it] dramatically,” Mr Shaw said.
“I put Whitehaven on notice, because we’ve never had water restrictions or a lack of water in Boggabri.”
Several business owners have told me that if not for the mining industry, they would be stretched to the limit.Gae Swain
Mr Shaw said the town had suffered because many farming families had moved away, and Whitehaven staff were not “actively” taking part in the community.
“We are definitely not seeing that replacement as mines acquire farms etc,” he said.
“They basically don’t spend money in Boggabri. We are losing those people who spend money in Boggabri.
“We are losing those people who traditionally support small towns such as Boggabri and who understand for a small town to exist it must have a substantial support base. This problem, unfortunately, is not being addressed by the mines.”
Mr Shaw said he wanted to see “mining companies building houses in Boggabri and Narrabri as they promised to do, actively promoting the workforce to live … and interact locally” and staging projects so staff could stay employed for a long period of time.
I put Whitehaven on notice, because we’ve never had water restrictions or a lack of water in Boggabri.John Shaw
A Whitehaven spokesperson said it had never been under any obligation to build housing but was “a major contributor to Boggabri, both in terms of the social contribution of employees who live in the area, and our economic contribution to services and infrastructure, as was spelled out at yesterday’s IPC hearing,” they said.
“Vickery offers even more prospects for Boggabri to grow and develop.
“We strongly encourage and provide incentives for our employees to live in the local community, which encompasses the broader North West region, but people will make their own judgement on where to reside based on how local circumstances and amenities meet their personal circumstances.”