Coal mining is a transient activity after which mined land is required by the State Government to be rehabilitated in an approved way.
In 1987, a century after mining at the Bay began, the then mining company (Coal and Allied) summarized the situation as follows:
”Non-development of the area to protect coal reserves has also led to the natural environment remaining substantially intact. This land is now considered to be valuable open space … (and) . is a buffer of coastal terrain between the urban development to the north and south.”
On this basis, the company gave an undertaking to Government that after rehabilitation, the emplacement areas of the mine would be managed to become “part of the open space and natural area around Catherine Hill Bay in accordance with planning objectives.” Coal and Allied envisaged a time when coal mining ceased, the infrastructure would be removed, and “the land will revert to coastal open space in accordance with Government objectives”.Those objectives had been set out in 1982 when Government endorsed a regional planning objective that the Wallarah Peninsula become an Environmental Zone between the Central Coast and Hunter Valley . This objective was endorsed by successive State Government and re-confirmed in 2005 when the Government’s Draft Lower Hunter Regional Strategy (for the succeeding 25 years) designated it for on-going protection as “land that provides valuable economic, environmental and social benefits for the region.”
But the final form of the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy presented late in 2006 by the NSW Planning Minister, Mr Sartor, “changed the rules” of the past quarter century. The Strategy opened the way for developments which would increase the size of the Bay village by 10 times – from about 100 cottages to 1000 dwellings.
The conservation zonings introduced at the behest of the State Government by the two local councils, Lake Macquarie City Council and Wyong Shire Council, were to be ignored in any consideration of future development.
The Minister can also decide that the $5million-plus Rehabilitation program is no longer necessary if he approves suburban development.
The two local Councils, Lake Macquarie City Council and Wyong Shire Council, which have had authority over development on the Wallarah Peninsula have conservation zonings of one type of another on the area. Most of the area in Lake Macquarie is zoned Conservation Primary, the most stringent protective zone available.
To see the overview of the subscidence at moonee click here.
The State Government approved in December 2003 a Mine Rehabilitation Plan which envisages on outcome of “complete rehabilitation to a semi-natural vegetation cover.”
This Plan was prepared by LakeCoal, a venture associated with Excel Coal, a large coal exporter. Lake Coal purchased the coal lease in 2002 from the then owners. At the same time the then owners sold the freehold title of the land to a Sydney-based development consortium, which includes shareholders in LakeCoal, and is led by Rose Corp Ltd.
The approved Rehabilitation Plan and Annual Report for 2004 and 2005 are available at LakeCoal’s website, www.lakecoal.com.au . The 2005 annual report contains “before and after” photographs of rehabilitation.
The company expects that rehabilitation will be completed in 2007; when this occurs it will seek to surrender the coal mining lease.