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Tears of joy and woe: Town split over New Acland decision

OVERJOYED: Tanya Plant (left) and Aileen Harrison celebrate the decision to refuse an amendment to New Acland Mine's evironmental authority.
OVERJOYED: Tanya Plant (left) and Aileen Harrison celebrate the decision to refuse an amendment to New Acland Mine's evironmental authority. Anton Rose

THE residents of Oakey have been left to ask what is next after hopes to expand the New Acland coal mine were dealt a significant blow yesterday.

The Department of Environment and Science declined to amend the project's proposed stage three expansion environmental authority.

The move comes after the Land Court recommended the mine expansion be rejected last year.

But there is hope.

The Land Court's decision is set to go up for judicial review in the Supreme Court in March, but for Carla and Tracey Tierney it feels like the final straw.

Carla Tierney (left) and mum Tracey Tierney both own businesses in Oakey and are shocked at the decision to decline New Acland Mine an environmental authority amendment.
Carla Tierney (left) and mum Tracey Tierney both own businesses in Oakey and are shocked at the decision to decline New Acland Mine an environmental authority amendment. Anton Rose

The mum and daughter both own businesses in Oakey.

Tracey owns Oakey Real Estate while her daughter Carla owns a dance school.

"I hope there is more fight, I really do," Tracey Tierney said.

"Oakey is not ready to give up on hope so hopefully there is more to come."

Just a few kilometres out of town near the proposed site of the mine there was a different reaction to the decision.

There were tears of joy and celebrations from members of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance as the department handed down its verdict.

For OCAA's Paul King, it was 15 years of hard work paying off.

"It's dead," he said.

"I had to read it two or three times because the word 'not' looked out of place."

As the word spread through the two dozen or so camped out near the mine site, Mr King thought it was time to think towards the future.

When asked what was next for those arguing for the mine's expansion, Mr King offered an olive branch after what had been a controversial debate.

"We wish every worker all the best for their future," he said.

"We will promote new forms of employment."

In a statement released to The Chronicle yesterday, New Hope Group managing director Shane Stephan said he was "disappointed with the outcome". 

Workers leave their high-vis shirts at the site of the New Acland Mine.
Workers leave their high-vis shirts at the site of the New Acland Mine. Anton Rose

Citing the upcoming judicial review, Mr Stephan remained committed to getting the project over the line.

"The company is committed to securing approval for this project and in doing so being able to provide ongoing employment for the circa 700 jobs," he said.

Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio was also committed to seeing the project gain approval.

"I have never seen a community cop such a horrible kick like Oakey has over the past five years," he said.

"Toowoomba Regional Council will be knocking on the door of every state and federal minster who can help."

The economic impact of the decision will be felt throughout the town that 4000 people call home.

Carla Tierney noted 13 empty shops in the Oakey CBD yesterday and TSBE executive chairman Shane Charles warned of dire consequences for the wider community should the expansion not go ahead.

"The economic analysis shows that 2100 indirect jobs are at risk if the project doesn't go through," he said.

Topics:  new acland mine new hope group news oakey toowoomba


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