Liverpool Plains Youth; (at back) Joe Norman, “Redbank” Gunnedah (bottom left) Jock Tudgey, “Newhaven” Breeza, Sarah Reardon, “Five Mile” Caroona and Alex Norman, “Yarra Brae”, Piallaway with his dog ‘Critter’. IT’S NOT just old cockies who are incensed at Shenhua’s Watermark mine proposal.
Young Liverpool Plains farmers say they are “fighting for our way of life” in the wake of last week’s Planning and Assessment Commission approval at Breeza.
The Liverpool Plains Youth Group started as an exclusive Facebook group among friends when news of Watermark’s approval broke on January 29.
They opened up their group to the public just one week ago and since then it has received more than 1200 “likes”.
The group aims to rally public support and force the government to change its decision.
They’ve been using different social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, and members have written letters protesting against Watermark’s approval to Premier Mike Baird.
“We are fighting for our futures and we won’t stop,” said Anna Pursehouse, daughter of Andrew who owns Breeza Station.
“Farming is not just our job it is our way of life.”
Breeza Station, a large mixed farming enterprise on the Liverpool Plains, shares three boundary fences with Watermark and Ms Pursehouse fears her new neighbour will affect her future on the land.
“Nobody is convinced in the slightest that our land will maintain its productivity and that would leave us with an unpredictable future,” she said.
Ms Pursehouse said the mine’s green light meant “throwing away a permanent food and fibre supply for a temporary coal supply.”
Sarah Reardon, “Five Mile”, Caroona, has also written letters pleading with the Premier not take her farming future away.
Ms Reardon arrived at Caroona seven years ago with her partner, Simon Burt.
“I could have a wonderful future here, I get goose bumps talking about it,” she said.
BHP is also planning to build its Caroona mine just 10 kilometres away from her property.
“If these projects go ahead and they take my future away I’ll move, and I so desperately want to stay,” she said.
“I and everybody else in the area never lost hope that maybe the State government would care enough to protect us and what we have here,” she said.
“The approval has really lit a fire under all of us because we want to stay here.”
Another member of the group, Ed Nankivell, “Wimboyne”, Blackville, said the group would use the remaining time before the mine’s final approval to show the public why Watermark shouldn’t go ahead.
He said Liverpool Plains soil stored moisture so effectively farmers could produce summer and winter crops, even during drier periods, making local agriculture particularly productive.
Uncertainty over potential impacts to productive aquifers was particularly worrying, he said.
“If they are affected significantly, we won’t be able to produce at the rate we have been.”
Producers who rely on irrigation for production also feared coal dust could affect their crops and production capabilities.
The impact on value of the properties neighbouring the mine areas was also a concern.
The federal Environment Department has final say over Watermark’s approval, with a 30 day deadline set to expire by March 2.
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