Back to the drawing board for Acland Stage 3

A protest outside Queensland parliament against the Acland Stage 3 project, in August last year.

The Supreme Court in Brisbane on May 2 overturned the Land Court decision of May 31 last year that recommended rejection of the stage 3 expansion of the New Acland (NAC) coalmine on Queensland's Darling Downs.

On February 14, the Department of Environment and Science refused the application for an amended environmental authority to allow for Stage 3, however the minister deferred a decision pending the outcome of the judicial review.

The Supreme Court found grounds for review have been established in the areas of groundwater, noise and intergenerational equity. The matter has been referred to the Land Court for further consideration. New Hope has requested that the matter be heard by a different member of the Land Court.

The Environment Defenders Office (EDO) represented Oakey Coal Action Alliance, a community group with more than 60 farmers and residents, in their challenge to the expansion of the mine. The case in the Land Court ran more than a year from March 2016 and was one of the biggest environmental public interest cases in Australian history. The EDO’s initial response was that it would consider the judgment carefully and discuss it with clients. 

Alliance spokesperson Paul King said his group was particularly concerned that the Supreme Court had found the Land Court did not have the power to fully consider groundwater issues. “This raises major issues and recasts the way environmental law relating to water issues has been understood in Queensland for a long time,” he said.

Farmers for Climate Action Queensland coordinator Michael Kane issued a statement of solidarity with the farmers and families who have been fighting the expansion of the Acland coalmine for more than a decade.

“We had hoped that today’s decision would put a final end to the division and pain the Acland coal mine has caused our community, however, we remain hopeful that the matter will soon be resolved and the local community will finally be free to get on with their lives and livelihoods without the prospect of a coalmine polluting or consuming their homes, land and resources,” he said.

“We call on the government to issue no licenses or further approvals to the Acland coalmine, a mine that has already destroyed the township of Acland, polluted the township of Jondaryan and now threatens the future of farming in a region that contains some of the finest agricultural land in Queensland.”