APPROVAL conditions placed on the fourth coal terminal at Kooragang Island were ‘‘toothless distractions’’ that provided little protection for the environment and surrounding communities, the project’s opponents believe.
The NSW Planning Assessment Commission signed-off on the $5billion project on Thursday at the end of a five year approval process.
The approval included a range of bolstered conditions relating to biodiversity, contamination, air quality, cleaning of coal wagons, stormwater and noise.
However, Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield Group spokesman John Hayes said the approval flew in the face of community concerns about health and pollution.
‘‘Thousands more coal trains coming down the valley to the port and hundreds more ship and tug movements in the harbour will add significantly to the already heavy coal, dust and diesel particles in the Newcastle air that we breathe each day,’’ he said.
‘‘This can’t be good for us.’’
A recent Australia Institute survey found more than half of Newcastle residents believe coal is a financially risky investment.
‘‘It’s disappointing to see that the NSW government has made a decision out of line with markets and local sentiment,’’ Australia Institute economist Rod Campbell said.
The NSW Minerals Council said the approval was a significant boost for the Hunter and state economies and reflected a strong global demand for NSW coal.
‘‘The approval of this significant infrastructure investment is also welcome news for the more than 10,000 Hunter coal miners and their families, the coal mining communities of the Hunter and the more than 4000 Hunter businesses that supply the mining sector,’’ the council said in a statement.
‘‘The expected growth in coal export volumes over the long term requires prudent forward planning to ensure our export infrastructure can cope. The T4 approval is an important part of this process,’’ the Minerals Council said.