Farmers, tourism operators, tradespeople, a general practitioner and a school teacher were among more than a dozen Gloucester residents who spoke against the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine.
“Our customers come here for the clean air and water. If Rocky Hill is approved it will destroy the visitor experience. Expect visitor numbers to drop by 20 per cent,” managing director of Barrington Outdoor Adventures Naomi Kirby said at a packed Land and Environment Court hearing at the Gloucester Returned Soldiers Club on Thursday.
“Gloucester does not need this mine; We are already experiencing the impact of climate change. Rivers that used to be constantly flowing aren’t any more.”
Gloucester Resources, the company behind the project, and Yancoal Australia, the company behind an associated modification to the Stratford Coal extension project, are challenging the development application refusal by the Department of Planning and Environment’s independent Planning Assessment Commission late last year.
The court heard the negative social and environmental and economic side-effects of the Rocky Hill mine would far outweigh the benefits from the mine.
Many of those who gave evidence, including local school teacher and community volunteer Sarah Soupidis, said their families would leave the town if the mine proceeded.
Ms Soupidis estimated that about one in seven children at the local primary school already suffered from asthma.
“We moved here soon after our second child was born because of the lifestyle. This mine puts that lifestyle in jeopardy. If this mine goes ahead there are going to be families that contribute so much to this community moving away.
Dr Garry Lyford, who has been a general practitioner in the town for 32 years, said there was a clear connection between respiratory illness and poor mental health associated with mining.
“I have seen the full spectrum of health problems associated with coal mining including reduced air quality, light and noise pollution first hand from the Stratford and Duralie mines,” Dr Lyford said.
“It is quite common to hear people who live near the Duralie mine say they have difficulty sleeping. There has also been an increase in mental health problems among those who live near the mine.”
The landmark hearing, the first its kind since the Paris Agreement, is also hearing expert testimony about climate change, the carbon budget and the impacts of the burning of fossil fuels.
The hearing, which began this week, is due to run for up to three weeks. A decision is not expected for several months.