Koalas could stop Shenua’s $1.2 billion Watermark coal mine from being developed as a case begins in the NSW Land and Environment Court.
The case has been brought by the Upper Mooki Landcare Group which is being represented by the Environment Defenders Office NSW.
EDO is arguing that the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC), which approved the mine on behalf of the NSW Minister for Planning, failed to properly consider whether the mine was likely to significantly affect koalas, a threatened species, as required by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and the Threatened Species Guidelines.
The group contends that the PAC failed to assess whether the mine would place a viable local population of Koalas at risk of extinction.
“We are pursuing legal action because there are still so many unanswered questions about the viability of Shenhua’s proposed koala plan and it seems at this point the plan does not guarantee the survival of the estimated 262 koalas currently living where Shenhua wants to put its mine,” Upper Mooki Landcare Group spokeswoman Heather Ranclaud said.
“This open-cut coal mine will clear 847 hectares of koala habitat and risks decimating the local koala population.”
Shenhua Watermark project manager Paul Jackson said the company stood by its Environmental Impact Statement.
“The [koala] population estimate in Shenhua’s management plan corresponds with the independent study previously conducted for the Gunnedah koala plan of management commissioned by Gunnedah shire council, and the management plan has also been agreed to by the NSW office of environment and heritage,” Jackson.
“The company commissioned leading experts to study the local koala population and habitat in developing management and revegetation plans and has committed to preserving 8000 hectares of preferred koala habitat in both the onsite offset areas and via additional land holdings.”
Shenhua said it planned to move the 262 koalas over the life of the mine and that its plan had been peer reviewed by academics at Melbourne and Sydney universities.
The hearing is expected to last four days.