TIGHES Hill and Mayfield residents have presented the human face of living next to the world’s largest coal export terminal.
‘‘There are already major health impacts from the existing coal-loaders ... us, our friends and our neighbours are the statistics of this dirty business,’’ Tighes Hill Community Group co-ordinator Graeme Pauley told yesterday’s Planning Assessment Commission hearing into the T4 coal-loader proposal.
The panel is due to hear another 75 submissions about the project today as part of the marathon two-day hearing.
Yesterday’s hearing began against a backdrop of residents and community groups protesting the proposal outside Newcastle Panthers.
Inside, Port Waratah Coal Services chief executive Hennie du Plooy, supported by a large contingent of employees, argued the project was necessary to allow Hunter mines to meet ongoing overseas demand for coal.
‘‘The project is essential to the long-term growth of the port of Newcastle,’’ he said. ‘‘It will help us position our industry to make the most of future opportunities.’’
He was supported by Bloomfield Colliery managing director John Richards.
‘‘Port Waratah risks becoming a bottleneck to a key Hunter industry without T4. We are also risking thousands of jobs and billions in coal royalties,’’ he said.
However, inner Newcastle residents, climate and environmental activists quickly disputed the need for T4 and raised concerns about its potential environmental impacts. ‘‘Before we start talking about tipping more coal into ships, consider another tipping point – how much more of this stuff [coal] can we burn before we destroy the planet,’’ Lake Macquarie Climate Action spokesman David Whitson said.
Hunter Bird Observers Club spokeswoman Ann Lindsey said mining and industrial activities already had large tracts of the Lower Hunter estuary. ‘‘Major areas of migratory shorebird habitat have already been lost; we need to preserve what is left,’’ she said.
The panel will hear submissions from 130 people by the time it wraps up on Wednesday afternoon.
THE economic justification for the T4 coal-loader is based on unrealistic assumptions around the demand for coal shipped through Port Waratah Coal Services, the Australia Institute says.
Australia Institute economist Roderick Campbell will tell today’s Planning Assessment hearing that economic assessments of the project commissioned by Port Waratah Coal Services are based on assumptions of throughput at the terminal that are higher than the company’s own internal estimates.
The commissioned assessments and the Department of Planning’s preliminary environmental assessment report also assume that world coal demand will continue to grow and that this growth will translate directly into greater throughput at the terminal.
‘‘Forecasts of long-term coal demand vary widely, between considerable growth and considerable reductions,’’ Mr Campbell said. ‘‘More importantly, however, the commissioned assessments and the preliminary environmental assessment report ignore potential increases in the global supply of coal.’’
The institute has also argued that any expansion of mining projects to try to lower per tonne costs are likely to encroach on areas that are residential, used by other industries or are environmentally valuable.
‘‘Expansions in such areas would impose a cost that should be considered in economic assessments, but has not been included in [the] commissioned assessment of the T4 project,’’ Mr Campbell said.