Horse stud owners are the new lords of the Hunter

HOGSBACK fears the Hunter Valley is returning to the middle ages when the lords and ladies sipped wine all day and admired their highly-prized horse flesh while the general population languished in poverty.
Horse stud owners are the new lords of the Hunter Horse stud owners are the new lords of the Hunter Horse stud owners are the new lords of the Hunter Horse stud owners are the new lords of the Hunter Horse stud owners are the new lords of the Hunter

The NSW government will have to decide if it wants to keep pandering to every whim of the well-heeled stud owners.

Horse and wine snobs may rule the Hunter but it is the coal miners that bring in the revenue that makes the local economy go around.

Two coal mining projects that promise to provide badly needed employment and investment are already facing stiff opposition from the snot-nosed thoroughbred crowd.

Australian Pacific Coal has patiently and diligently pursued its proposal to develop the Dartbrook underground mine despite being told by the NSW Independent Planning Commission that it would only be allowed to operate the mine for two instead of the desired five years.

It has been engaged in a long and expensive arbitration process with the NSW government to provide some sanity in the planning decision making processes.

It needs five years to make the project economic.

Earlier this month there was finally a breakthrough with the company coming to an agreement with the NSW Independent Planning Commission over the modification, known as Mod 7, that would advance the modification.

However, that agreement only becomes effective and the development consent is only modified once the Land and Environment Court disposes of the proceedings in accordance with the agreement.

AusPac has received notice of a proposed application by the Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association to join the proceedings.

The proposed application also involves an application for a stay and could delay or prevent the finalisation of the proceedings on the terms of the agreement that has been reached.

Once again the horse breeders are the flies in the ointment.

Regular readers of this column will remember that it was the aforementioned horse breeders who stopped Anglo American from expanding its Drayton open cut mine in the Hunter Valley into the Drayton South project.

Another developer, Malabar Coal subsidiary Maxwell Ventures, is proposing turning Drayton South into an underground coal mine that would recover 148 million tonnes of run-of-mine coal over a period of 26 years, and inject $509 million in capital investment value into the economy.

This is not good enough for the Upper Hunter Region's Equine and Viticulture Critical Industry Cluster that claims the mine will be right under the Coolmore Stud and Godolphin's Woodlands Stud.

It is mounting a well-funded challenge to the proposed underground mine despite the NSW government allowing only underground mining at the site in 2017 to keep the horse stud owners happy.

The NSW government will have to decide if it wants to keep pandering to every whim of the well-heeled stud owners and wine sippers or back real projects that deliver opportunities and benefits to the entire Hunter Valley community.