Forbesdale resident Helen Evans has told the Planning Assessment Commission committee about her Rocky Hill Coal Mine journey over the past nine years.
She retold the story of when, in 2008, the former Gloucester Shire Council called Forbesdale residents into council chambers and “dropped the Rocky Hill bombshell”.
“I cried that night and I have cried many nights since,” she explained.
“I have sunk every penny into my house and I have been told it’s now worth $200,000 to $250,000 less than when I bought it.”
Helen was among a number of residents who expressed their views of the proposed Rocky Hill Coal Mine during the PAC public meetings held on Tuesday, November 14 and Wednesday, November 15 at the Gloucester Soldiers Club.
She also joined the majority of speakers who not only asked the PAC to not approve the mine, but also asked them to buy back the mining licence.
Gloucester residents and community groups, as well as organisations from outside the region, made up the 56 speakers over the two days of meetings, expressing views both for and against the project.
Forbesdale resident Chris Reynolds spoke on behalf of his family about how the mine would affect them.
“I’m not anti-mining, but I think there is a time and a place and this isn’t it.”
Gloucester resident Irene McSwan spoke in favour of the proposal explaining how her son is a mine worker who lost his job at a local mine and has been forced to travelled to the Hunter Valley to work.
“If this mine isn’t approved we will lose more of our young people as they leave to find work,” she said.
Chief executive officer of Purfleet Taree Local Aboriginal Council, Joedie Lawler spoke to the committee about her connection to the land, the laws of her culture and her duty to protect the land. She spoke about the cultural significance of Gloucester to her community and how she feels this isn’t being acknowledged by Gloucester Resources Limited (GRL) or various levels of government in relation to the Rocky Hill Mine proposal.
Several other community organisations also had representatives speak to the committee outlining each groups position about the proposal. Each speaker was given an allotted amount of time to express their view directly to the committee without interruption. The meetings were executed efficiently by the PAC, and those who came to listen did so quietly.
Following the meeting, Advance Gloucester secretary Rod Williams said he thought the meeting was a positive process where everyone had the same opportunity to share their views, regardless of their opinion.
“It was a really good thing for the town to have this type of forum,” he said.
Gloucester Knitting Nannas member Carol Bennett said the high percent of people speaking out against the mine was reflective of the community’s opinion about the project.
“Some people have been very emotional. It’s been 10 years and the community really needs the PAC to make the right decision and not approve the mine.”
Groundswell Gloucester president Julie Lyford said the speakers who uphold the Department of Planning and Environment’s decision to recommend the proposal be rejected have been exceptional, in regard to the factual information and the personal stories.
“Their strength and resolve to continue to fight this until it dies is unwavering. This community will never accept the Rocky Hill Mine.”
Chief operating officer of Gloucester Resources Limited, Brian Clifford said the meeting went how he expected and that there weren’t any new opinions or objections presented that weren’t already adequately covered in GRL’s response to submissions.
“People made false claims about many things, which is disappointing because we have had an information centre operating in Gloucester for over 12 months to ensure people were informed of the facts. Clearly there are many people who haven’t availed themselves of the facts.”
Gloucester Business Chamber president Stuart Redman said the chamber is neutral about the project.
“If the project is rejected, we will accept it. If it goes ahead we have been working with GRL for the best outcome for the community.”