Waratah couple refused mine subsidence claim

An elderly couple in Waratah, NSW has been demanding compensation from the Mine Subsidence Board (MSB) for more than 30 years after water flooded their property.

But the MSB has refused to give compensation since the couple’s home is not undermined.

Now, the Newcastle Herald reports the MSB gave compensation for drainage works at a house only metres away from the elderly couple.

The MSB have rejected at least four claims put forward by Allen Watson, 92 and his wife Claris, 91, saying since their property is not undermined it is not covered by the Mine Subsidence Compensation Act.

According to a geotechnical report, water is leaking from a former underground mine, a few metres from the home’s back fence.

The garage on Watson’s property is submerging, paths have dropped and one corner of their home has caved in.

Yet the MSB granted compensation in 1978 for water leakage from the mine at a house near the couple’s residence. This house is also not undermined. Resident Kerry Ham’s late mother Joan received compensation for an agricultural drainage line in 1978, after water spoiled her block.

It paid the compensation after a subsidence crack let in large amounts of water through old mine workings that lead into homes.

Water was coming from the Braye Park Hill reservoir at a rate of about 3030 litres per minute and the excess water was seeping through the subsidence crack.

Ham said the house had water leakage problems for “as long as I can remember”.

“I remember it was always wet and boggy,” he said.

“They dug the yard up and put a pit in to try and help.”

 The Watson’s neighbour Tim Howes said his own mother’s property still gets inundated with water despite his late father putting in drainage into the year.

“I think a lot of it is running in from the Watson’s yard, it’s a tragic situation and I know Mr Watson has taken some terrible falls trying to clean it up,” he said.

“The Mine Subsidence Board needs to spend less on their television advertising campaigns and more on the problems faced by these elderly people dealing with the legacy of old coalmines.”

An old, closed coal mine in Newcastle collapsed last year, damaging around fourteen homes in Lambton.

Subsidence is a big issue throughout the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie area, as several old coal mines surround the area.

Mineral Resources Minister Chris Hartcher, who oversees the MSB, said he will investigate the claim.

The Watsons lodged their first claim in 1982 with the MSB asking for help.

It was rejected. Claims were also rejected in 1999, 2003 and 2009.

Watson got a letter in 2010 from Mineral Resources executive director and MSB Chairman Brad Mullard saying compensation from the Derelict Mines Program had been rejected as there was insufficient proof water was coming from the mine.

The couple’s health is deteriorating and they would like to sell their house and shift to an aged care home.

But they fear they cannot sell the house.

A taskforce was set up in 2011 to look into the cost of mine subsidence in the Newcastle CBD and Lake Macquarie suburbs of Charlestown and Glendale.

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