Muloobinba/Newcastle

The Coal Terminal Action Group this week launched a community-led dust and health study, following the application by Port Waratah Coal Services to construct yet another coal terminal in Newcastle (T4). For many years, communities living around the port, along the coal train lines and near the mines have been calling for the NSW government to do the research to find out what health impacts all the coal dust and diesel emissions are having on them.
The Hunter Community Environment Centre released the statement below on February 16. * * * The Paddock to Port public forum held on February 15 in Newcastle was attended by over 150 people. They unanimously passed a resolution to reject the proposed fourth coal terminal for Newcastle.
The trees are coming down. Against a backdrop of grey skies and at times torrential rain, to a soundtrack of chainsaw, wood chipper and howls of protest and grief from anguished residents and exhausted protesters, the magnificent, healthy, 80-year-old iconic cathedral arch of the Laman Street Fig Trees in Cooks Hills, Newcastle, is being reduced to wood chip as this goes to press. Sixty riot police guard the area, which is bordered by a double ring of tall temporary perimeter fencing. Onlookers shrieked in outrage and amazement as a large bird’s nest was fed into the mulcher.
After ammonia gas leaked from Orica’s Kooragang Island chemical plant on November 9 and made two people four kilometers away very ill, the Environment Protection Authority ordered the plant to shut down. But because Orica is its major supplier, the Hunter’s coal industry has as little as three to four weeks of explosives in stock. The largest Hunter mining company, Coal & Allied, told the November 22 Newcastle Herald it had cut production due to the explosives shortage.
Two people were hospitalised with breathing difficulties in the Newcastle suburb of Mayfield East on November 9. NSW Fire and Rescue crews identified the cause as ammonia gas blown from the Orica chemical plant five kilometres away on Kooragang Island. The Environment Protection Authority ordered the entire Orica site to be closed. A Fire and Rescue spokesperson said an estimated 900 kilograms of the gas had escaped over about an hour.
Not many things would get the Returned and Services League and died-in-the-wool greenies climbing into bed together; have a mother-and-daughter being frisked by police on the same day, nor cause the arrest of an 83-year-old retired high school English teacher. But the 14 Ficusmicrocarpa var. Hillii, commonly known as Hill Figs, planted in memory of World War I soldiers in Newcastle have.
Just about every passerby stopped at a recent Green Left Weekly stall in Hamilton, Newcastle, to sign a Lock the Gate Alliance petition for a moratorium on coal seam gas (CSG) mining. All those who stopped were concerned about plans to mine CSG at nearby Fullerton Cove.
As time passes, the reasons the public might have for trusting chemical company Orica and the NSW environment minister Robyn Parker are evaporating. On the night of August 8, highly toxic hexavalent chromium leaked from Orica’s Kooragang Island plant and blew over the Newcastle suburb of Stockton. Orica notified the NSW environment department at 10.45am the next morning. Orica representatives began doorknocking residents in Stockton on August 10. Parker says she was not told of the accident until that night.
The Orica chemicals plant at Kooragang, near Newcastle NSW, released hexavalent chromium (VI) into the atmosphere on August 8. Up to 20 workers were exposed in the accident. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) was not notified of the accident for 16 hours. Residents of nearby Stockton were not told that the toxic pollutant blew over their suburb for 54 hours.
Mark Goudkamp from the Sydney Refugee Action Coalition, Gleny Rae, a participant in the SBS series Go Back Where You Came From, and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young addressed the biggest meeting supporting asylum seekers seen in Newcastle since the Howard era on August 4. Goudkamp said 54 asylum seekers, 19 of them children, had recently arrived by boat on Christmas Island. They had not yet been told they would be sent to Malaysia. “The media reports extra riot police have been sent there,” Goudkamp said. “But the government is saying they have counsellors on hand.”
Rising Tide Newcastle released the statement below on August 5. * * * This morning climate activists scaled a 15 metre high coal conveyor belt in Newcastle’s coal port and suspended a banner saying, “We’re sorry Somalia. Coal = climate change and starvation”. Their action comes as scientists this week have made the link between human-made climate change and the deadly drought affecting over ten million people across the Horn of Africa. Rising Tide spokesperson Naomi Hogan is at the scene.
The NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is continuing to build the Bulahdelah bypass, north of Newcastle, despite a community campaign to halt the project. The bypass road was first proposed in 2000. Three main routes were canvassed: one to the west of the town, passing through several flat paddocks; another to the east, cutting through the foot of the Alum mountain; and an option that involved widening the existing road. The safer, more geologically stable and slightly western route was ditched in favour of the mountain route.