Sydney, Thursday 15 May 2014
The new Ministers for Environment and Planning in NSW – Rob Stokes and Pru Goward - are continuing the pattern of preferential treatment for the coal industry by weakening environmental protections associated with the Maules Creek coal mine to facilitate its development.
State Government agencies have been engaged in negotiations to weaken wildlife protections in the approval for the controversial Maules Creek coal mine by allowing clearing to take place in Leard State Forest over winter, when hibernating threatened species are particularly vulnerable.
The Leard State Forest is a place where – according to the previous Planning Minister Brad Hazzard – it’s “not logical” to build an open cut mine.
“Despite a new Premier, Environment Minister and Planning Minister, it is business as usual for the coal industry,” said Nic Clyde, senior Climate and Energy campaigner for Greenpeace Australia Pacific. “If environmental protections get in the way of the coal industry, the environmental protections are removed. Thanks to this decision, threatened animals will be bulldozed while they hibernate through winter,” concluded Clyde.
The NSW Environmental Defenders Office has written to both Ministers on behalf of the Maules Creek Community Council in a bid to prevent an amendment to Whitehaven Coal’s Biodiversity Management Plan which will allow one of Australia’s most controversial coal mine companies to continue clearing through winter.
If this amendment is allowed, it is likely to cause even more significant impacts upon protected fauna.
Of particular concern to Greenpeace is the impact any clearing during the winter months will have on the four hollow-dependent threatened bats which are listed in Whitehaven’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), namely the Yellow-bellied Sheath-tail Bat, Greater Long-eared Bat, Eastern Falsistrelle and Little Pied Bat.
Maules Creek Community Council spokesperson, Phil Laird said, “The Maules Creek Community Council wrote to the Environment Minister and Planning Minister through our lawyers this week asking them to intervene to protect the animals of Leard State Forest, but we have received word that these changes will be made to accommodate Whitehaven Coal.
“We are frankly shocked that arrangements put in place to protect wildlife would be traded away so easily by the Department of Environment and Planning. There’s a new Premier, a new Environment Minister and a new Minister for Planning, but it seems we’ve got the same old dirty system that gives coal companies whatever they want, whenever they want it”.
Nic Clyde, Climate and Energy campaigner, Greenpeace: 0438 282 409
Jessa Latona, media officer Greenpeace: 0488 208 465
 Cumberland Ecology for Hansen Bailey, Maules Creek Coal Project Ecological Assessment, Final Report July 2011 page I.7 of Appendix I