The proposed development of new coal export facilities at the former BHP steelworks site would make Newcastle an even worse climate offender, and would further compromise the Hunter’s ability to diversify the regional economy away from its unsustainable reliance on coal, according to The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton.
As a Greens councillor and environmentalist, Mr Sutton initiated the Hunter’s first climate-based campaign to phase out the coal industry during the 1990s.
“It’s sadly ironic that news of this new proposal has emerged at the same time as the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, while hundreds are gathering at Lake Liddell in the Hunter to protest against further coal mining and exports, and while inner-city Newcastle residents are expressing strong concerns about the impact of coal freight on local air pollution and amenity, and the Mayfield community is up in arms about potential local traffic impacts from another proposed development on the former BHP site.
“In recent discussions about their proposed Mayfield container terminal, the Newcastle Port Corporation has admitted that coal already consumes so much of our rail network capacity that only 20% of the freight generated by its proposed container terminal development could be transported by rail, with the remaining 80% forced to use trucks. This would apply equally to the Buildev coal development on the adjacent site.
“This is a perfect example of how the current open slather approach to coal mining and exports is directly restricting our ability to create a more resilient, diverse and sustainable local economy,” Mr Sutton said.
“From both a local and global perspective, it’s just not good enough anymore for governments to simply abrogate their responsibility to the whims of the market-place.
“Our local, regional and global communities are now asking when is enough enough, and demanding government action to curb the runaway expansion of the coal industry.
“The Greens have long called for a just transition, comprising a gradual and planned phasing out of the coal industry, and associated economic restructuring and community redevelopment programs to assist affected local and regional communities to build a twenty-first century climate friendly economy.
“The Greens believe that it’s both more ethical and practical to do this in a planned, phased and systematic way, because the longer this transition is delayed, the more disruptive it will be when the need for change inevitably imposes itself.
“Starting the process now will allow us to take greater advantage of the economic and social opportunities that a transition economy offers.
“Rather than wasting precious time and resources on a proposal for new coal facilities at the former BHP steelworks site, the state government should immediately reject the proposal, and develop – in full consultation with the community – an integrated plan for the site based on sustainable job-rich industries that will contribute to a more diverse local and regional economy,” Mr Sutton said.
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For further information or comment, please contact John Sutton (Greens candidate for Newcastle), on 4969 2668 or 0411 154 004.