Newcastle

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.
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.
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 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.

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