Media Releases - 04 May 2022

Coal’s long shadow lifts from Wollemi National Park as greenfield coal releases ruled out

A still from drone footage captured by the Wilderness Society of Wollemi National Park and an area next to it that the NSW government had been for a greenfield coal release.

The Wilderness Society welcomes the decision by NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole to rule out opening up the Ganguddy-Kelgoola area adjoining Wollemi National Park in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area to greenfield coal exploration.

This campaign has been a significant focus for the Wilderness Society since 2020 and represents a major victory by the Rylstone community and the environment movement as a whole.

Deputy Premier Toole announced the decision in Budget Estimates today, stating that it was due to uncertain economic prospects of a greenfield coal mine in that location, as well as infrastructure, culture and environmental factors.

Wilderness Society Manager of Policy and Strategy, Tim Beshara said, “We are overjoyed at this decision but also remain furious that it ever got this far. A swathe of Ganguddy-Kelgoola was nominated to be added to the current World Heritage site by this very government, for goodness sake. It was plain to everyone everywhere that this is the last place on the planet to open up coal mines.

“Now there is more than 80 kilometres along the western edge of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area that will be coal-free and the local communities are now themselves free to shape their own fate, safe from coal’s long shadow. This decision will allow a genuine discussion about the future of tens of thousands of hectares of beautiful bushland and forest with incredible First Nations heritage values on crown land and state forest throughout the region. The presence of coal under these places was a handbrake on enormous tourism, conservation and cultural heritage opportunities,” Tim concluded.

Wilderness Society NSW Campaign Manager, Victoria Jack added, “We are proud to have worked with the members of the Rylstone Coal Free Communities group and have been in awe of their dedication, hard work and stoicism in the face of what sometimes seemed like an inevitability. The one upside to what has been a genuinely traumatic impost on the local community is that it has brought so many people together with common purpose to protect the environment and established links that will last for their lifetimes.

“We are grateful to Deputy Premier Paul Toole and Environment Minister James Griffin for their role in this decision today. Neither of those Ministers started this coal release process that got us to this point but they both played a role in securing this announcement today. Deputy Premier Toole made this call as the Minister for Regional NSW but undoubtedly also as the local MP who would have alienated a large area of his electorate, where Ganguddy-Kelgoola is located, had he made a different call. And Minister Griffin, as Environment Minister, worked hard behind the scenes to influence a wider government decision that really should have been explicitly an Environment Minister’s decision to make.

“We are also exceedingly grateful to the MPs and MLCs who continued to raise this issue in NSW Parliament. In an era lacking in genuine accountability, it is a relief to see parliamentarians taking their accountability to communities, climate and the environment seriously,” Victoria concluded.

For more information contact Tim Beshara on 0437878786