NSW premier Bruce Baird was confronted by 200 TAFE students, teachers and supporters when he visited Newcastle’s Hamilton TAFE campus on February 16. His visit was to inaugurate the offices of the Hunter Business Chamber, which have been relocated to Hamilton TAFE. Significantly, the old TAFE signage out the front of the campus has been replaced with a sign that reads “Australian Business Apprenticeship Centre”.
It’s 8pm and I’m sitting in the main section of the carriage. A weathered, middle-aged man in a tracksuit and peak hat is swaying around by the doors, muttering. I watch him out of the corner of my eye as he ambles over. “How’s it going?” He slurs. “Yeah good mate.” The train soon shudders to a stop, the doors open and he springs out like some manic racehorse into the night.
The Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) held a hearing on October 29 to allow the community to express their views on Incitec’s proposal to build an ammonium nitrate production facility in Newcastle. All 18 speakers slammed the proposal as presenting an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic explosion that could threaten the lives of thousands of people in the city. Speakers ranged from explosives expert Tony Richards to the Socialist Alliance, the Greens, and several community groups from Stockton and Mayfield, as well as members of the public.
Steve O'Brien, Socialist Alliance candidate for the byelection in the NSW state seat of Newcastle, slammed the NSW government’s decision to close the heavy rail line to Newcastle at Broadmeadow, cutting the city centre from rail traffic from December 26. "This move is wrong and completely unacceptable for the people of Newcastle," O'Brien said. O'Brien was speaking at the campaign launch at the Rail Sheds, Newcastle East Foreshore Park, on October 12. The by-election will be held on October 25.
Dave Kerin from the Victorian Earthworker Cooperative toured the Hunter region on July 30 and 31 to talk about the Eureka Future Cooperative. The cooperative plans to make solar hot water units in the LaTrobe Valley of Victoria, with the support of trade unions, the Uniting Church, Victoria Trades Hall, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and community fundraising. The project is particularly relevant to the Hunter, whose coal industry is in the midst of an overproduction crisis, fuelled by lower than expected demand for steaming coal from China and the rise of renewables worldwide.
A crowded forum of 200 people organised by the Stockton Community Action Group learned about the serious risks posed by a proposed ammonium nitrate storage facility at nearby Kooragang Island on September 19. The new facility is proposed by Incitic Pivot and would add 21,500 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to the 9000 tonnes already stored there by rival company Orica.
Reclaim the Cove, the Fullerton Cove campaign to stop coal seam gas mining, released the statement below on September 6. * * * In a historic decision, the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group today won an injunction to prevent Dart Energy from drilling for coal seam gas at Fullerton Cove, near Newcastle, until a full legal challenge has been heard.
Rising Tide released the statement below on September 5. * * * Activists have closed down a coal haulage railway construction project in the NSW Hunter Valley, to protest the rapid expansion of the export coal industry and its impacts on public health and the environment. Activists arrived at the Hunter 8 Alliance construction compound at Rutherford before dawn this morning, erecting a wooden tripod to prevent access to the site. An activist is perched on the tripod, 10 metres over the gateway to the site, refusing to move.
Residents of Fullerton Cove, on the outskirts of Newcastle, set up a blockade on Monday 20 August to prevent Dart Energy from drilling two coal seam gas pilot wells that are currently under construction.
The Coal Terminal Action Group hosted a public forum on August 21, with several expert speakers opposing the proposed fourth coal loader for Newcastle, known as the “T4”. Georgina Woods, senior climate campaigner with Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said T4 was not “just another coal terminal … It is part of a long process of continual expansion that will more than double coal exports with an extra 120 million tonnes and 107 extra trains per day and destroy an internationally listed wetlands.