LAND COURT HEARING: Farmer and Oakey Coal Action Alliance president Frank Ashman (left) chats outside the Dalby Land Court hearing with Andrew Kwan of the Environment Defenders Office.
LAND COURT HEARING: Farmer and Oakey Coal Action Alliance president Frank Ashman (left) chats outside the Dalby Land Court hearing with Andrew Kwan of the Environment Defenders Office. Derek Barry

Graziers and miners in Land Court standoff over Acland

THE battle for the New Acland stage three coal mine has begun in Dalby with most parties emerging from yesterday's first direction hearing satisfied with their day in the Land Court.

The Queensland Government had granted Acland owner New Hope Coal draft environmental approval in August, but objectors took the case to the Land Court, which can make recommendations to the government.

Yesterday, Land Court member Paul Smith heard opening testimony from lawyers representing New Hope Coal, the Oakey Coal Action Alliance which opposes the expansion, and many locals including Glen Beutel, the last resident of Acland.

Mr Smith said the case could take upwards of 10 weeks as legal arguments began about what access Alliance lawyers should have to New Hope documents while the number of objectors required six separate sessions.

Oakey Coal Action Alliance president and local cattleman Frank Ashman said the main impacts were about drawdown of water and the destruction of prime agricultural land.

"It's a hell of a thing to be hanging over your shoulders," Mr Ashman said.

"We've got grass, we've got cattle, but without water coming out of the ground we can't provide the cattle with water."

Mr Beutel, who was ill and was granted leave to testify by phone, was told by Mr Smith that he needed to make a written submission by January 8 if he was to continue to play a part in the hearing.

Mr Smith also ordered the second hearing to take place in Brisbane next Monday.

New Hope Group's Managing Director Shane Stephan welcomed the Dalby hearing.

"It's been a long process getting to this point, not just for the company, but for the 275 current full-time local employees and 507 contractors whose livelihoods depend on it," Mr Stephan said.

"This start to the process should bring some relief to them that things are finally moving."

Paul King of the Darling Downs Environment Council, representing some of the objectors, said the outcome of the case would determine if coal mining would continue to expand into agricultural or be curtailed in Queensland.



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