Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party’s candidate for Upper Hunter Lee Watts meets with concerned Wybong community

THE Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party’s candidate for Upper Hunter, Lee Watts, is calling on the Mine Subsidence Board to “move with the times”.

The organisation was originally set up to help property owners who were impacted by old underground coal mines.

But, mining has changed and the role of the board should have, too, according to Mrs Watts.

“It needs to incorporate all [mining] impacts and administer compensation with greater flexibility to buy out neighbours who feel stuck,” she said.

“When a mine like Mangoola expands, there are some properties the company must legally offer to purchase because of their impacts.

“However, there is the next line of properties they don’t have to buy.

“The property value then falls, there are no buyers and the owners have to live with increasing dust and noise. 

“When I met with some of the Wybong community, they weren’t angry, they were just disillusioned, trying to find a way for their families to live the lifestyle they have planned and worked so hard for.”

After visiting their homes, Mrs Watts felt sorry for the locals having to contend with many issues.

“On paper, the figures for dust increase might not seem like much,” she said.

“But, in reality, it means they have to have dust control on their tanks which need to be replaced more regularly, they no longer leave their windows open on a cool summer night, pool filters need to be replaced more often, cracks in their homes after blasts, through to the bus their children catch to school which was once through paddocks will soon be through a mining operation. 

“They are all small incremental changes, however living with it every day becomes like the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

“I can’t imagine their frustration of only being 1 or 2 dB below the noise level of having the option to be brought out. 

“To make matters worse, development laws have changed.

“So, the noise limits used for a development on Parramatta Road are the same for the people of Wybong, which is not fair.

“People who plan a quiet rural lifestyle and then have a mine expand is a completely different environment to people who buy a flat on a freeway in Sydney, you can’t compare the two as equal.

“Many of them have their places on the market, but the value is not what it was, many will lose money if they can sell, but most simply can’t sell now.”

Mangoola will dig up 54 million tonnes of coal on its new lease and, at about $100 a tonne, the cost of the government doing the right thing by these landholders is a drop in the ocean. 

“The companies well and truly have the money to buy out these neighbours stuck in no man’s land,” Mrs Watts said.

“The government has left these communities in the hands of mining companies, but the companies will only offer to buy properties which they are required to legally. 

“I think it is time for a more independent and flexible approach, so that these families can move if they want to and not stay stuck one decibel below the legal cut off and be trapped in no man’s land.

“The government makes massive royalties each year from mining.

“It is a drop in the ocean for some of that to be spent buying out the neighbours most impacted by mining and not leave their futures in the hands of mining companies.”