By Robin Mosman
I am 73 and have spent the last 33 years of my life co-ordinating resident and environmental actions, on the NSW Central Coast and in the Blue Mountains. On the coast, we stopped two international chemical companies from establishing in locations that would have put Tuggerah Lake at risk, and forced a third, Bayer Chemicals to comply with NSW planning laws which they had flouted. In the Mountains, where I was president of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society for three years, we took the NSW government to court to stop an American film company from filming a war movie in Blue Mountains Wilderness. In the days when email was the only social media I started an email campaign with friends during John Howard’s government to raise awareness of climate change. Since then I’ve been involved in protesting coal mining and coal seam gas developments in the Blue Mountains.
Just after Anzac Day I saw a film clip from the Bentley Blockade near Lismore, where 2000 people had gathered to block access to coal seam gas mining company Metgasco. In a misty dawn they had held their own Anzac memorial service. After ‘Lest we forget’, the camera panned to an older country woman. She said, “We’re fighting a cause as important as what our ancestors did”.
Then a Vietnam veteran, wearing the medals he hadn’t worn since that war ended said , ”What we see happening here is not what they fought for”.
Another older woman said “Because we have a crisis of democracy it actually creates what’s happening here. It’s beyond just voting as a citizen. We have to stand up for what we believe in. We have a huge responsibility to uphold the freedom that they died for”.
And I started to make a connection that I hadn’t really seen before.
Australia is now really at war. Our country is being invaded and occupied by armies of largely foreign mining companies, aided and abetted by our own political leaders, intent on turning Australia into a giant quarry for their own gain.
This is a war, and ordinary Australians standing against the mining companies are the Anzacs of today, as much as any of our forces fighting on foreign soil. At the Bentley blockade two thousand of them rallied, bracing themselves to stand against another army, this one of 800 police, threatened to be sent by their own government to break up the blockade. The strength of their courage and commitment caused the government to back off, suspend Metgasco’s licence and refer the matter to the ICAC.
A few days after the Bentley success, came the appalling news that the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) had changed the management plan for Leard State Forest to allow Whitehaven Coal to continue clearing for open cut mining at their Maules Creek mine in winter, when animals are seeking to hibernate and are more vulnerable.
Leard is an 8000 hectare state forest near Narrabri, home to 396 species of plants and animals including 34 threatened species and threatened box-gum woodland. Whitehaven Coal, totally foreign-owned, has plans to clear over half of it, 5000 hectares, for 3 open-cut mines.
The miners were granted an extension earlier this year to submit a regional biodiversity strategy, but haven’t yet produced it. The Leard Forest Alliance have said that mining operations should be halted until the miners make clear what their plans for offsetting the forest’s destruction are. “If the miners don’t have to submit a strategy until they’ve done all their clearing, then what’s the point?”. In the last four months over 150 people have been arrested trying to stop clearing for the mine.
Blockade numbers at Maules Creek are swelling and clearing interrupted in outraged response to the DPE’s action, and the Government’s failure to respond to calls for the clearing to cease.
I thought “That’s it! I’ve had it with writing submissions and phoning politicians’ offices! We’re going to do something the politicians can’t ignore. We’re going to stand up for what we believe in”.
My husband and I have joined the army. We’re off to the Leard Blockade.