Thursday, October 29, 2009

Friends of Felton Raceday success

Our raceday in Toowoomba on Saturday was a resounding success. More than 300 people packed the Grand Marquee at Clifford Park, and were entertained by a string quartet. Guest auctioneers Rob Caton and Matt Cleary did a great job, and a large amount of money was raised to help our campaign against mining development at Felton.

Special thanks to our race sponsors - Oakey Veterinary Hospital, Glenmar Fuels, Hannas, Elders Real Estate Toowoomba, Pittsworth Veterinary Surgery, Stillwater Pastoral Co, and Ray White Rural Pittsworth

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Farmers: Give a Tonne or Two to Felton!

From left: John Gilmour (FOF graindrive coordinator), Pat Sullivan (Graincorp Operations Manager), Rob McCreath (FOF President)

Friends of Felton this week launched a fundraising grain drive called “Give a Tonne or Two to Felton”.

We are currently raising funds to employ consultants to prepare a response to the EIS for the proposed Felton coal mining development, which Ambre Energy says will be released for public comment early 2010.
The Felton project is a test case, being the furthest advanced mining project on prime farmland.

It would be hard to imagine a proposal with more impact on farmland, the environment, and the community. We are confident that we can stop this project, and draw a line in the black soil which will set a precedent to protect other threatened areas, such as Caroona, Haystack and Jimbour.

‘Give a Tonne or Two to Felton’ is an easy way for graingrowers to contribute to the cause.

At any grain receival point, just ask for a tonne or two of grain to be warehoused under Friends of Felton’s NGR 12920138. Grain already warehoused anywhere in Queensland can also be transferred to FOF in the same way. Every little bit helps.
Ex-farm grain collection can also be arranged by FOF, please contact us to discuss.
Graincorp Operations Manager Pat Sullivan said his company was happy to support the FOF campaign. “This country has very little prime farmland, we should preserve it for food production”, he said.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Encroachment by mining has to be moderated

How come coal miners can establish in the middle of highly productive and closely settled farming communities on the Darling Downs? Coal mining at places such as the Felton Valley is contrary to the wishes of the resident community and against the best long term interests of the nation and the planet.

Friends of Felton have determined that there are more than 220 households located within 12 km of a proposed mine site. Potentially, all the occupants of these households would suffer mine-related externalities of some sort, without getting any compensation or offsetting benefits.

Clearly the market forces that currently allow miners to enter and establish in contravention of the greater good, are failing. Evidence of market failure is normally met by government intervention with the end result being regulations to correct the market failure. So why hasn’t there been any government intervention to protect the highly productive and closely settled communities of the Darling Downs and elsewhere? The blame on this occasion rests squarely with state governments as they control mining approval processes and issue the operating licenses. The fact that state governments also collect royalties from mining goes a long way towards explaining the root cause of their inaction.

So what should happen? Good governance demands urgent reform through some combination of the following.

1. Broad-scale land use planning that takes into account all relevant issues including history, demographics, existing development status, water, agricultural productivity and community aspirations. This reform would bring about balance between agriculture and mining and in the process give absolute protection to particular farming communities.

2. Vest the licensing of all new mines with a single national body, operating independently of any government department. Apart from severing the link between licensing and royalties, this reform would reduce duplication and make it possible for Australia to deliver a meaningful ETS.

3. Require the impact assessment process to include quantification of key performance indicators applying to affected precincts (such as household density, productive capacity of the ecosystem and qualities of the natural environment). Beyond some aggregate score, the site’s ‘performance’ would cause the mining proposal to be rejected outright and progression to mitigation strategies would not be attempted.

Making the EIS process more objective and subject to the possibility of outright failure would go a long way towards increasing public confidence in the assessment process.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Council with Courage

Congratulations to our neighbouring Local Council for taking a stand to protect the environment, local residents, and vegetable growers.

Powerstation proposal rejected
Kate Stark 14th October 2009

Gatton Star
Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones with local residents. Picture: Toowoomba Chronicle

THE Lockyer Valley Regional Council has refused the proposal by Parson Brinckerhoff Australia Pty Ltd to build a gas fired peaking power station on Mulgowie Road, Laidley South.During the ordinary meeting of council, held yesterday, LVRC unanimously agreed that the proposal could not be justified and would not bring a positive change to the area.Rejecting the proposal on the basis that the station did not comply with the Desired Environmental Outcomes for the area, particularly highlighting the effect it may have on the air quality.Also outlined by council was the economic impact it would have on vegetable producers on adjacent properties and the general aesthetic value of the scenic areas.Lockyer Mayor Steve Jones said the acceptance of the officer's recommendation to refuse the power station was a victory for people power."I would always encourage people, if they're passionate about something, to do their homework," Mayor Jones said."If you've got a real conviction, don't be afraid to stand up."I understand that there is an ongoing need for power but we need to determine what's in it for us."Deputy Mayor Graham Moon said while he wasn't against the idea of a power station, the proposed sight at Mulgowie was unacceptable."We have one of the prettiest valleys in the Lockyer," Cr Moon said, adding he would hate to see it negatively affected by the construction.

Toowoomba Chronicle report here

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No mining without planning

Friends of Felton met yesterday with Toowoomba Regional Council and requested:

Public support for a halt to all new mining development within the Toowoomba Region, until comprehensive land use planning has been undertaken which considers protection for prime farmland, areas of high environmental importance and closely settled areas.

Ambre Energy has applied for a Mining Lease at Felton. A number of other companies have identified coal deposits in areas such as Wyreema, Hodgson Vale, Wellcamp, and Pittsworth.

Spokesman Rob McCreath said “The Toowoomba Region as we know it is under threat from mining. Toowoomba Regional Council must speak up to safeguard our farmland, the environment, and local communities. How can Toowoomba be the Garden City if mines take all the water? How can Toowoomba be Australia’s Tidy Town if everything’s covered in coal dust?”

Toowoomba Regional Council is in the process of developing a new Planning Scheme with the following objective:

“Council’s principal goal is to protect and enhance the amenity of all land uses while retaining the special character of local communities.” (TRC Quarterly Winter 09)

We feel our request fits very well with Council policy. We look forward to their response.

Toowoomba Chronicle report 19th October: 'Council Urged to Speak Up'

Senate Inquiry submissions keep rolling in

The Senate Inquiry into the impacts of mining in the Murray Darling Basin has now received over 70 submissions, including one from Friends of Felton.

Read them all here

Transcripts are available for the hearings in Oakey and Gunnedah here