Bylong mine proposal up against history

IT was coal versus foals in the battle over the Drayton South mine in Muswellbrook, and now it’s coal versus heritage in Bylong Valley between Denman and Mudgee.

Minutes of an October meeting of the NSW Heritage Council show the NSW Planning Assessment Commission has requested greater scrutiny of Bylong Valley’s heritage values, as the PAC considers Korean energy company KEPCO’s proposal for an open cut coal mine.

The request comes after the PAC said it was persuaded the iconic properties Tarwyn Park and Iron Tank had “greater heritage significance than has been previously documents by the applicant, or considered by the Department of Planning or Heritage Council”.

The minutes show the Heritage Council has until January to complete an expert assessment of Bylong Valley as a whole, after the council earlier assessed Tarwyn Park – home of Peter Andrews’ natural sequence farming – and found it was not under “immediate threat”.

But the October minutes show Tarwyn Park, which was bought by KEPCO in 2014, no longer operates using natural sequence farming. They also show KEPCO is disputing a highly-regarded expert assessment indicating Tarwyn Park could be of state significance, and should be on the State Heritage Register.

Lock the Gate spokesperson Nic Clyde said the Bylong Valley was “no place for a coal mine”.

“The Bylong Valley has been voted into the top 10 most scenic Australian drives and listed by the National Trust for ‘significance as prime agricultural land with a rural landscape of exceptional scenic value,’” Mr Clyde said.

Legal advice from the NSW Environment Defenders Office supported a decision on heritage values before the PAC determines the KEPCO proposal.

“In the absence of a formalised listing on the State Heritage Register, a consent authority is unlikely to have sufficient formalised guidance to understand the impacts of the proposed project on the built environment and the site generally,” Mr Clyde said.

“We call on the NSW Heritage Council and Planning Minister Gabrielle Upton to recognise the outstanding cultural, scenic and heritage values of the Bylong Valley and protect these values via a State Heritage Register listing,” said Bylong Valley Protection Alliance spokesperson Warwick Pearse.