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New legislation likely to increase Hunter Valley mining, say campaigners

The Hunter Valley wine-growing region risks being 'ripped apart' by changes to New South Wales planning regulations, campaigners fear.

Open cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley. Image: © david hancock / Alamy

Vineyards and racehorse breeders in the Hunter have long battled against the threat of coal and methane gas mining, but now the New South Wales government is considering the draft of a new, amended State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP).

If adopted, protesters claim, this new policy would prioritise the potential economic benefits of a new mining project over other considerations, such as the environmental impact on vineyards, stud farms and tourism.

The Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association has outlined its ‘strong opposition’ to the reforms in an official submission to New South Wales Planning, ahead of this week’s deadline for public comments.

Association spokesman Stewart Ewen told ABC that the new law would place the emphasis on ‘ripping the Hunter apart’ and appeared to signal a return to allowing unprecedented mining initiatives in the area.

Meanwhile, pressure group Hunter Valley Protection Alliance argued that the draft SEPP effectively meant that the bigger the mine, the more likely it was to be approved.

‘If the government goes back on its promises, there will be no protection for the wine industry or the extensive wine tourism industry, and the many jobs which flow from them,’ it said.

However, the New South Wales government is also considering another new planning assessment which could help protect vineyards from mining developments.

The Lower Hunter Strategic Assessment aims to offer environmental protection to rural areas from the impact of urban development, state planning officials say.

Written by Richard Woodard

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