Upper Hunter residents, including a general practitioner have demanded the state government take action to reduce air pollution.
About 50 people who met in Singleton on Monday night unanimously adopted a series of demands and resolved to send them to government representatives, including the EPA and environment minister Matt Kean.
The meeting called on the Mr Kean and EPA chief executive Tracey Mackey to establish an air pollution strategy for the Hunter region that:
- ensures meaningful community involvement in its development and ongoing monitoring and review
- requires polluters to implement controls that result in measurable improvement in air quality in Singleton and Muswellbrook Shires to well below the national standards
- includes a load based licencing fee for the coarse and fine particle pollution emitted by coal mines (which are currently exempt)
- employs a full-time "air control manager" with overarching powers to control blasts etc
- incorporates Hunter New England local health district into the decision-making process so that local health impacts are assessed and alerts issued when there's a deterioration in air quality
The meeting heard from local community representatives and Singleton GP Dr Bob Vickers about the deteriorating air quality and its effect on the health of people living in communities nearest to open cut coal mines.
Dr Vickers presented information about the number of deaths caused by air pollution in Singleton and the parts of the region worst affected.
"Air pollution is getting worse in Singleton and it is affecting people's health. Close to 90% of our coarse particle pollution comes from open cut coal mines. We're not going to improve this situation unless and until the state government makes the mines act."
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said: "The people of the Hunter Valley are being treated very shabbily by the Ministers and public agencies that manage the environmental and health impacts of the mining industry. The situation is intolerable and unacceptable.
"We'll be working with doctors and members of the community to send these demands to the Government and we expect them to respond with swift action."