NEARLY two-thirds of people polled in the mining areas of Singleton and Muswellbrook say critical horse-breeding and wine growing areas of the Hunter should be off limits to coal mining.
Support for a ban on mining in critical agricultural areas is even higher among people aged over 65, with 7 out of 10 people polled on September 27 saying horse-breeding, wine-growing and coal mining don’t mix.
The ReachTEL poll of 253 people was commissioned by Lock the Gate as it campaigns to stop three greenfield mines in the Hunter and Central Coast areas, including the KEPCO Bylong mine between Denman and Mudgee.
Only 23 per cent of people polled disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that horse-breeding and wine-growing areas should be off limits to mining, while 13.8 per cent of respondents were indifferent.
Women were more likely to want mining banned in agricultural areas, while more than half the people aged 18-34 said they strongly agreed with coal mining being off-limits in farm areas.
The Bylong coal mine proposal, nearing a final determination, includes direct disturbance of 400 hectares of Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land (BSAL) and 587 hectares of land in the Bylong Valley mapped as equine critical industry cluster land.
In a final assessment of the Bylong project the Department of Planning noted a NSW Planning Assessment Commission’s concern in 2017 that approving a coal mine would mean “a fundamental shift in the valley in favour of mining”, and a threat to water security for farms.
But the department said an amended plan resulting in a 5.4 per cent reduction in the BSAL impacts and a 16 per cent reduction in the equine-impacted area meant the KEPCO mine “could represent a good example of co-existence” between mining and agriculture.
Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said the Bylong project is remarkable because of its direct impacts on mapped strategic farmland.
“In our view, the Bylong project crosses a line that must not be crossed in its impact on agricultural land and productive groundwater,” Ms Woods said.
“We have not before come across a new mine proposal with impacts this profound. Given that Upper Hunter is a marginal electorate, we are heartened by the very strong support in these polling results for restoring the balance and protecting strategic farmland for the horse and wine industries from being cut open for coal mining.”
Farmers for Climate Action chief executive Verity Morgan-Schmidt said farmers were “beyond frustrated and devastated” by mining projects that directly impacted agricultural land. The department’s assessment the Bylong mine was “approvable”, released on the day the world’s climate scientists warned that coal consumption had to be phased out by 2050, “displays an almost staggering disconnect from reality”, Ms Morgan-Schmidt said.
Farmers are already facing severe impacts from climate change and the poll reflected what people wanted for Bylong, she said.