Hostile takeover in Hunter Valley

Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association CEO Cameron Collins has warned the multi-billion dollar thoroughbred industry would leave the region if the $500 million Drayton South coal mine is approved.

Collins told the NSW Planning Assessment Commission hearing on Thursday that the prime agricultural industry was fundamentally incompatible with mining.  “We cannot co-exist in such close proximity to a coal mine; this proposal is best described as a hostile takeover,” Dr Collins said.  “Nowhere else in the world would this be allowed to happen.”

“The Drayton South decision will either confirm our future or trigger our demise.”

Coolmore Australia chairman Ken Barry said the closest mine to the stud’s farm was presently 7km away.  The Drayton South mine would be 1.5km away.   “Open-cut mines are moving closer to stud farms,” Barry said.  “As far as we are concerned, we have reached the end of the road.”

More than 100 people packed into Denman Memorial Hall to hear speakers from both sides argue for and against the Anglo American company’s Drayton South project.  Despite their differences, there was consensus that the Hunter’s economy and environment had reached a critical crossroads.

Those opposed to the mine argued a need to look to more sustainable employment balance.  “We are not opposed to mining but the balance has swung too far in their favour,” Upper Hunter Wine Makers Association president Brett Keeping said.   “Several vineyards have already relocated.  We are not attracting new investment because of the uncertainty.”

Scone Race Club chief executive Noel Leckie said the thriving Upper Hunter horse racing industry would collapse if Darley and Coolmore Studs relocated.  “Horse breeding has been in the Hunter Valley for the past 200 years,” he said.  “We would lose everything if they left.”

The Upper Hunter Air Quality monitoring network issued five alerts for poor air quality while Thursday’s hearing was being held.

The NSW Planning Assessment Commission has reserved its decision.