Media Releases - 03 November 2021

NSW Deputy Premier moves to kill plans for new Wollemi coal field

The stunning landscape of Wollemi National Park.

The Wilderness Society has been campaigning for the NSW Government to walk away from their planned coal releases on the western fringe of the World Heritage-listed Wollemi National Park for over a year now. We provide the following comments on Deputy Premier and local MP Paul Toole’s statements in Budget Estimates today that he will oppose the opening up of this area for coal exploration.

The Wilderness Society’s Manager of Policy and Strategy Tim Beshara says, “The NSW Government have finally opened their eyes and seen how ridiculous their coal strategy really is. On the doorstep of the World Heritage site, within sight of where Australia’s biggest ever bushfire started and among a community of people who live closer to the Wollemi pine than they do to a working coal mine: It was beyond insanity.

“The Wilderness Society communicated clearly to the Government that they were walking themselves into a campaign that would have drawn global attention. This never should have gotten this far, it never should have been proposed in the first place. It only took an enormous campaign and one week of Budget Estimates to show how silly this plan was.

“It is such an intense relief to see some thoughtfulness and common sense creeping into policy around fossil fuels and we thank the Minister for making this call. We hope the NSW Government will keep their eyes open as they consider the fate of the adjoining regions. We don’t want this to be a brief relapse into sanity,” Tim Beshara concluded.

Wilderness Society NSW Campaigns Manager Victoria Jack says, “We are thrilled for everyone who has rallied for this community and to protect this incredible landscape. The Rylstone Region Coal Free Community group has worked tirelessly to draw attention to this reckless coal plan and to demonstrate how opposed the whole community really are. The Wilderness Society had gathered more than 26,000 signatures against coal exploration on the edge of Wollemi National Park, and we were gearing up for a long fight. But Minister Toole has rightly recognised this plan was a terrible idea and so the community will thankfully be spared years of uncertainty about their future.

“I hope the NSW Government moves quickly to finalise this outcome so the community can go back to living their lives. They didn’t ask to be burdened with this fight, it was the NSW Government and the NSW coal industry that put this upon them. But they see a different future for themselves that doesn’t involve coal and they deserve to get on with their lives without this hanging over them, especially when so many are still recovering from the devastating impacts of the Black Summer Bushfires.

“The movement that has built up around this campaign is still there if the Government has other plans to impose the burden of coal mining near the Wollemi World Heritage Area. The Wilderness Society will continue to work with other wonderful groups, from Lock the Gate, to local farmer and business networks, and Traditional Owners, to make sure the only future for coal in this spectacular region is to stay in the ground,” Victoria Jack concluded.

For further comment contact Tim Beshara on 0437878786

View the Wilderness Society’s submission.

Comment made by Deputy Premier Paul Toole on the potential coal release areas on the edge of Wollemi National Park below.

On Hawkins and Rumker potential coal release areas:

“Well let me say this, okay. It is my intention to take this proposal to my colleagues. And it is my intention to actually rule it out. So that will be my proposal that I’ll be taking to my colleagues. I take that view because what I’ve seen already shows that there are issues around commerciality of the project and also there are social issues around the project. You know, this still fits in line with our government’s commitment to the Future of Coal Statement – acknowledging that coal needs to be put into those areas that are appropriate, but I can tell you now I’ll be taking a proposal to my colleagues to rule it out.”