Rally urges NSW Planning Minister to ‘step up’ and take responsibility for coal terminal

At least 1,000 people are expected to participate in the Stop T4 street parade and rally in Newcastle today. More than 100 community groups will participate, with speakers addressing a range of environmental and social impacts of the proposed fourth coal terminal (T4). The rally follows recent coal dust monitoring in suburbs close to coal trains and stockpiles that found levels significantly higher than national standards.

“NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has so far failed to take responsibility for the unacceptable risks posed by T4 to community and environmental health,” said Coal Terminal Action Group (CTAG) spokesperson Ms Annika Dean. “It’s time for the Minister to hear our community, and to reject T4.”

The NSW Department of Health has expressed concern that air pollution in Newcastle already exceeds health standards and that T4 would lead to higher levels of air pollution more frequently. Coal dust monitoring commissioned recently by local community groups confirmed this.

“Pollution from T4 is a significant threat to public health,” said Associate Professor Nick Higginbotham, member of CTAG’s Dust and Health committee. “Most affected will be the 32,000 people living alongside the coal corridor from Newcastle Port to Rutherford; the 23,000 children attending Hunter schools within 500m of the coal rail and the 23,000 residents living within 2 kilometres of T4.”

By increasing the export capacity of Newcastle port by 120 Million tonnes, T4 will increase pressure for new and expanded coal mines and the conversion of farmland to open cut. Retired Denman farmer John Kaye and several rural Hunter Valley groups have travelled to Newcastle for the rally.

“The process for granting exploration leases for coal mines puts people and communities last,” said Mr Kaye. “Australia is so privileged that we can grow 93% of our own food. Every drop of water we lose, every piece of productive soil we dig up, ultimately places at risk not only our ability to feed ourselves, but also to continue to play our part in feeding the expanding global population,” Mr Kaye said.

“It’s time we looked to the job-rich renewable energy opportunities already available to us and gave up yesterday’s dirty coal addiction,” said Climate Action Network convenor Duncan Jinks. “After the summer we’ve just had, with 123 weather records broken in just 90 days, it’s absurd to even consider further coal expansion, Australia’s number on contribution to climate change.”

Other rally speakers are Bev Smiles (National Parks Association), Cr Michael Osborne (Newcastle City Councillor) and Brett Holmes (General Secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association).

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