Opposing sides united against common foe

THEY stand on opposing sides of the Drayton South coal mine proposal –mining giant Anglo American and its supporters, and the thoroughbred horse breeding industry –but on one point they’re clearly united.
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They have a common foe in the form of the state’s planning process as it appliesto mine determinations.

In speech after speech at a NSW Planning Assessment Commission hearing in Muswellbrook over the past two days, those for and against Drayton South slammed a process that has dragged on for six years and over four PACs. It would be laughableif the issue wasn’t so serious and the costs involved weren’t so high,for participants and NSW taxpayers.

It is not how this was supposed to be. Over the past few years theNSW Government has introduced planning overhauls and reboots, including establishment of industry clusters in the Upper Hunter intended to end damaging clashes like Drayton South, which have lined up coal versus foals.

“Certainty” was the buzzword and aim.

Instead we have aNSW Planning Departmentrecommendation for approval enlivening a fourth PAC, despite Anglo American pullingthe pin on mining Drayton South itself after a third PAC rejection in 2015 and confirming it was selling up. Drayton mine workers were left to get what they could out of an accelerated mine closure process.

Their self-appointed champion, the “boganaire” bankrupt Nathan Tinkler, told the PAC on Wednesday that the Drayton South saga had “cost 500 families their jobs and that’s not right”, and insisted he had “nothing to do with Drayton”.

But like most players in this process –including the NSW Government –Tinkler has skin in the game. Anglo sold the nearby Dartbrook mine to Australia Pacific Coal, a company in which Tinkler and his family have a significant stake. It’s possibleAnglo might also be persuaded to offload an approved Drayton South to APC.

The Planning Assessment Commission was told if Drayton South was approved a “binding agreement” would prevent mining beyond boundaries close to studs. But “binding agreements” have been set aside before when it comes to coal. Just ask the people of Bulga.

The NSW Government expects millions of dollars in royalties from an approved Drayton South mine, but the cost in terms of community beliefin its assessment process is immeasurable.

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