“We won!” Gloucester resident, Karen O’Brien screamed as she heard the news delivered by the NSW Land and Environment Court.
Chief Justice of the Land and Environment Court, Brian Preston handed down his decision to dismiss the Gloucester Resources Limited appeal against Department of Planning and Environment’s refusal of the development application for its Gloucester coal mine.
Karen was joined at her home by other concerned Gloucester residents on Friday morning as they waited for Groundswell Gloucester president, Julie Lyford to call with the news.
“We won on all counts,” Julie said, when she called at 9.39am. “Including climate change!”
The court heard expert testimony from Climate Councillor Professor Will Steffen who emphasised that coal reserves cannot be developed if we are to to limit global temperature rise.
“This landmark decision sends a clear message to the fossil fuel industry that it cannot continue to expand if we are serious about tackling climate change,” said Professor Steffen.
The Gloucester residents’ group erupted in cheers of joy, some even with tears of joy, as they celebrated the end of a 10 year battle against the proposed Rocky Hill Coal Project.
Members of Groundswell made the journey to Sydney in the early hours of the morning in order to be present for the landmark decision. Most were in shock as they heard Justice Preston announce that GRL’s development application for the Rocky Hill Coal Project should be refused.
Justice Preston said the Rocky Hill coal mine would increase global greenhouse gas emissions “at a time when what is now urgently needed ... is a rapid and deep decrease in GHG emission”.
“In short, an open cut coal mine in this part of the Gloucester valley would be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said in his judgment.
For Karen, who has been fighting against the project for over 10 years with Julie, the decision has brought a sense of relief, along with a bit of hesitation.
“I’ve been in this state before,” Karen explained as she recalled the numerous wins in the past that she believed would see the end of the project.
“I'm worried they (GRL) might appeal the decision,” she said. “They’ve told me they won’t stop until it gets approved.
“I’m hoping this is the end but I thought the DPE decision was.”
Celebrations have been taking place in many locations, with Gloucester Knitting Nanna Carol Bennett hearing the decision while holidaying on the coast.
“I just can’t believe the news,” Carol said. “I can’t express the joy that justice has prevailed.
“So many people will get their lives back. It’s been over 10 years.”
Former Gloucester Shire councillor, James Hooke was also thrilled to hear the news.
“The division in town will finally be over,” James said. “And we can move on.”
Comment has been sought from Gloucester Resources Limited.
To read the full court decision, visit https://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/decision/5c59012ce4b02a5a800be47f