The fight to save the Gardens of Stone near Lithgow came to the streets of Springwood on Sunday when residents rallied in the town square calling on the government to protect the area from coal mining.
Organised by the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, Lithgow Environment Group and Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC), the rally was the final event in a week-long tour by senior NCC staff of areas across the state facing coal mining and gas developments.
The Gardens of Stone has escarpments, canyons, upland swamps, rock arches and pagodas that provide habitat for many endangered plants and wildlife.
NCC chief executive officer Pepe Clarke said even though the Planning Assessment Commission made damning findings against the proposal in December, the area was still vulnerable.
“Coalpac’s revised open-cut coal mine proposal at Cullen Bullen north of Lithgow is still a very real threat to this iconic area and must be opposed at every opportunity,” Mr Clarke said.
“The O’Farrell Government now has an historic opportunity to protect this unique part of the state’s environmental heritage for future generations and to improve its poor environmental credentials by declaring it a State Conservation Area. People should not have to fight this fight — this should be protected up front.”
Tara Cameron, vice president of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, said approval of the proposal would open the door to the “visual cancer of strip mining along the steep forested edges of the Greater Blue Mountains”.
“These long thin strips of steep and elevated lands are very difficult to rehabilitate and will become, for all time, areas of visual blight, destroying the region’s greatest tourist asset, its stunning scenery. It must be stopped,” she said.
“To allow open-cut mine anywhere is bad, but to ruin the Gardens of Stone would be intolerable. The government has a clear responsibility to reject the Coalpac proposal and protect the area forever by declaring it a State Conservation Area.”
Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage responded that “although the Gardens of Stone are not in the Blue Mountains I fully understand the concerns of the conservation society”.
“The Coalpac expansion proposal was referred to the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) and the commission’s independent review report was publicly released on December 20, 2012. The PAC recommended that the coal mine expansion project not proceed, partly on environmental grounds.
“A final decision on the proposal is still to be made by the government. No decision on Gardens of Stone [stage] 2 [proposal] National Park can be made before that time,” she said.