NSW election could decide fate of Wallarah 2 coalmine

Protest against the Wallarah 2 coalmine last October.

The future of the controversial Wallarah 2 coalmine will hinge on the outcome of the March 23 New South Wales election. 

For more than 20 years, locals on the NSW Central Coast have been fighting the proposed coalmine in the Dooralong and Yarramalong valleys, near Wyong.

The area is an important part of the drinking water catchment for more than 300,000 people.

The proposed Wallarah 2 longwall coalmine threatens to take millions of litres of water out of the catchment each year and pollute local waterways.

The mine was given the go-ahead by the NSW Coalition government in January last year.

In response, local community group Australian Coal Alliance lodged an appeal that was heard in the Land and Environment Court in November.

The court’s decision has been reserved and is anticipated to be handed down in late April or May.

Despite the decision still pending, federal government approval for the coalmine was given on January 18.

While in government, NSW Labor rejected the mine application and continues to oppose the Wallarah 2 project. Federal Labor has also stated its opposition to the mine.

Labor MP for the federal Central Coast seat of Dobell Emma McBride said: “I have always opposed this mine and will continue to stand with the community to stop this coal mine.’’ 

Labor’s stance has provoked a reaction from the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU), which has given Labor MPs an ultimatum over the Wallarah 2 coal project.

According to the Newcastle Herald, CFMMEU Northern district president Peter Jordan said the union was "astonished that a potential NSW Labor government is willing to ignore the science which supports the Wallarah 2 existing approvals and the cold hard fact that the Central Coast is crying out for jobs and opportunity”. 

Labor MPs have responded by stating they are not worried by the CFMMEU’s threats to withdraw support for 11 state and federal Labor candidates in NSW.

Wyong Labor MLA David Harris said: “We are not against mining in general. This is a very unique case of a designated water catchment area.”

His view was echoed by Labor leader Michael Daley, who said: “This is not about not wanting coal mining or hating coal or any particular forms of energy. This is about safeguarding the drinking water of 325,000 people on the Central Coast.”

The Greens have opposed Wallarah 2 from the outset. 

In the event of a minority Labor state government, the scene is set for withdrawal of the approval.