MORE than seven years after it was first proposed, a controversial plan to build a fourth coal loader on Kooragang Island will face its final hurdle in Newcastle on Monday.
But it will also face one final onslaught of opposition from those hoping to quash the $4.8 billion project at the eleventh hour.
Almost 100 speakers have registered to address the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) hearing which will be staged over two days. Among them is Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) boss Hennie Du Plooy, Newcastle port chief Geoff Crowe, Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes, and representatives from scores of environmental, community and political groups.
Three religious leaders are also among the registered speakers, including Reverend Greg Heathcoate from a group called Australian Religious Response to Climate Change.
The PAC finalised its review of the 'T4' loader proposed by PWCS late in 2014. It made 16 recommendations and sent them to the state planning department for further review.
Last month, after getting a response to the recommendations from PWCS, the department gave the project the nod and forwarded its approval back to the PAC for final consideration.
Newcastle Greens councillor Michael Osborne will be among the first to address Monday's public hearing, saying on Sunday that the approvals process had been flawed and that the adverse impacts of the project "far outweighed" the positives.
"No, I wasn't surprised when the department of planning approved T4," he said. "Because more than 99 per cent of projects that go through state planning get approved. It's more like an approvals department than a planning department.
"T4 fails on so many levels. If it came before the council in its current form, we'd kick it back and say we needed more information and guarantees."
If approved, T4 will provide PWCS with the capacity to export up to 70 million additional tonnes of coal per year. It already has the capacity to move 142 million tonnes per annum, but even at the height of the coal boom was only moving 112 million tonnes a year.
The two-day public hearing will be held in the Fort Scratchley Multipurpose Centre from 9am on Monday.