HOPE is on the horizon for opponents of KEPCO’s Bylong Valley coal mine, which they say threatens valuable farming and Thoroughbred industry assets at Tarwyn Park, the home of pioneering land management system Natural Sequence Farming.
NSW Planning Department has confirmed that a key clause will be inserted into the terms of reference for an imminent assessment to be undertaken by the state’s independent approvals body, the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC).
The PAC was established to assess the triple bottom line of social, environmental and economic factors of a development. But for the coal proposal at Tarwyn Park the Planning Minister will instruct them to ensure the property’s heritage values are considered as well.
“The terms of reference for the review require the (PAC) to consider the merits of the proposal as a whole, including potential impacts on the heritage values of Tarwyn Park,” a spokesman said.
Natural Sequence Farming is a system developed since the 1970’s by Peter Andrews OAM, which centres on contouring the landscape and water courses to slow water movement, to stabilise erosion, maximise water retention and generate mulching to distribute nutrients. Soil carbon and moisture profiles have risen dramatically while Tarwyn was run as a beef production enterprise, as the impact of weeds was neutralised.
A heritage listing would require assets of historical significance on the property are preserved – which would likely include stables, the homestead and the grave of dual Melbourne Cup winner Rain Lover. Were the listing to extend to Natural Sequence Farming,
Mr Andrews is advising the Mulloon Institute, near Braidwood, on integrating Natural Sequence Farming techniques into its landscape restoration work. NSW’s Environment Trust gave Mulloon $100,000 in August and it was also selected by the United Nations as one of five international showcase projects for sustainable agriculture.
Bylong Valley Protection Alliance lobbied Mr Stokes for an interim heritage order, which would have required KEPCO to maintain Natural Sequence Farming at Tarwyn. The Alliance presented him with a 4,500-signature petition when KEPCO took possession of the property in August last year.
Mr Stokes allowed the approvals process to proceed without an interim order. But documents obtained under freedom of information laws by anti-coal group Lock the Gate reveal that NSW Office of Environment Heritage Council advised Mr Stokes to assess Tarwyn’s heritage value.
Former Resources and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts recently took charge of the planning portfolio, following a Cabinet reshuffle in January. He is yet to hand the PAC terms of reference for its assessment of the Bylong coal project.
The Planning Department will hand its review of the project to the PAC, which will hold public hearings before ultimately issuing a determination.
“What these documents reveal, is the strength of the case to include Tarwyn Park on the State Heritage Register, and the urgency of this issue as two new ministers find their feet, and as a new coal project which threatens this heritage progresses through the planning system,” said Lock the Gate spokesman Nic Clyde.
“Lock the Gate is calling on the new Minister for Planning Anthony Roberts to give Tarwyn Park a fair go. Any day now he is expected to send the Bylong Coal Project to the PAC. If he’s listened to the NSW Heritage Council, he’ll direct the PAC to carefully weigh a brand new coal mine approval against the growing and compelling case for heritage listing”