IPC Submission and Importance of the Aquifer


There were many fantastic submissions at the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) held in Moss Vale earlier this year (2019), by individuals in our local community opposing the proposed Hume Coal in the Southern Highlands.

It is such a shame that each community has to fight and spend so much time out of their daily lives and work to fight climate wrecking projects. Government should ban climate wrecking projects across the board.

Our local council as well as the community are opposed to Hume Coal, the IPC have rejected the mine citing it is not in the community interest, and now the Korean conglomerate have lodged their objection with the High Court. The Battle For Berrima is not over by any means, Hume Coal are still advertising on our local radio, have a local office, and disturbingly continue to bribe our community with money going to all sorts of projects, and people are falling for these bribes.

Here we see a submission to the IPC by a local nurse, Bernadette Lawler. The ramifications of a compromised aquifer are unknown by the community at large. We are already seeing the degradation of our forests, not only coping with drought, but also with the additional disadvantage of depleted aquifers and compromised waterways. It is no wonder that our national parks are so dangerously threatened by fires when we so recklessly use the water only for ourselves and forget the need of nature as well.

And disturbingly the general public are blindly led to believe that the problem is simply due to the fuel that had not been burnt away by hazard reduction. Think again, this fuel has been created by drought, and other menacing factors.

My name is Bernadette Lawler. We have a commercial flower orchard in Sutton Forest. Like many other agricultural businesses, our water comes from the aquifer, which is crutial for our survival, but the effect the extensive drawdown of water from the aquifer by the proposed Hume Coal mine will have on the plants and animals of the western area of the Southern Highlands are dire.

This proposed coal mine will be located in the middle of the Great Western Wildlife Corridor, connecting the Blue Mountains to the Morton National Park. The wildlife ecological corridor is critical for the connectivity and the conservation of many threatened species, including koala, regent honeyeater, gang-gang cockatoo, glossy black cockatoo and other endangered species, utilising the corridor to find food, water and shelter.

This corridor contributes to the resilience of the landscape and helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is very important for species such as the regent honeyeater, relying on winter-flowering gum trees along their migratory routes.

Sutton Forest, Paddys River, Wingello and High Range are identified as narrow and highly fragmented due to the existing industry and development, and most of all we need to focus on conservation.

The NSW Government recently declared a National Park on Tugalong Road, Canyonleigh for koala habitat, recognising the importance of the corridor the koala conservation.

The drawdown of water from the aquifer is the issue. I refer to a study done in WA with the equivalent eucalyptus forest to those that are impacted by Hume Coal’s mining.

The study identified the large trees tapping into saturated soil from the aquifer for their survival, and drawing out too much water from the aquifer will have catastrophic consequences on the forested areas of the corridor and the habitat on which the animals so desperately rely. If the aquafer, rivulets, dams and rivers dry, this results in increased destabilisation of the soil and erosion.

There will be a large decrease in the vertebrate populations that rely on these ecosystems and severely reduce primary production in the area. This will damage all vegetation particularly in this part of the corridor, and have a massive negative impact on the function of the corridor.

Much of the mine area is directly under the Belanglo State Forest, which is a vital part of the Great Western Wilderness Corridor. The effects of the drawdown on the aquifer will go way beyond the proximity of the mine.

With reduced access to natural waterways and drying of the saturated zone being the effects of the predicted drawdown, in combination with the pressure of climate change, will jeopardise all the efforts of the many conservation groups of the Wingecarribee Shire, various environmental departments of the NSW Government that have thrown enormous amounts of money into its protection.

As stated previously, Southern Highlands is valued for its unique ecological diversity. It must be protected. Water is vital to our trees, plans, animals, birds and insects in our state forests, on our private properties, and on the Crown land. How do Hume Coal plan on making good to these plants and animals and provide water when they have been denied the basic right? We all notice how our trees have suffered over recent years in the drought. The effect of this drawdown is expected to last for at least 76 years or more.

This corridor will not cope, and it will not survive. One of the things that make this area of the Southern Highlands beautiful and much loved is the extensive and diverse landscape. The trees create the unique and wonderful artistry of the Southern Highlands. This attracts tourism and people who want to live here. Our trees depend on a healthy layer of ground and soil, supported by this aquifer.

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