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Labor loss felt in coal-mining heartlands

THE coal industry in New South Wales is set to face more challenges on the project approvals front as the state coalition ends 16 years of Labor party rule with a record swing in the weekend election.

Blair Price
Labor loss felt in coal-mining heartlands

Out of 93 lower house seats, the coalition is predicted to win 68 seats and has already secured 65 with a total swing of 11.6%.

There was a 13.8% swing away from the Kristina Keneally-led state Labor party, which has only secured 17seats but is predicted to hold onto 22.

This morning eight seats were still in doubt, including a close battle for Wollongong between Labor party incumbent Noreen Hay and well-liked independent, Uniting Church Minister Gordon Bradbery.

Despite a 24.5% swing against Hay, who has held the seat since 2003, the ABC is predicting her to defeat Bradbery’s challenge with a result of 50.8% to 49.2%.

The crushing defeat for the Labor party was also experienced in many traditional heartland areas of support.

The key seats of Newcastle and Maitland were picked up by the Liberal party with swings of more than 20%.

Another key seat of Wyong on the Central Coast was picked up by Liberal candidate Darren Webber with a swing of 14.6%, despite the Keneally government’s recent decision to reject the Wallarah 2 longwall project on environmental grounds.

Labor upper house minister of parliament and campaign spokesman Luke Foley summed up the bleak situation facing the party.

“If we're talking about Labor fighting for its life in Newcastle, Swansea, Cessnock, Granville, Cabramatta, that shows how catastrophic this election is for our party,” he reportedly told AAP.

Sitting Liberal party member for Goulburn Pru Goward retained her seat by a healthy margin with a primary vote exceeding 60%.

She has already expressed opposition to the proposed Hume (Sutton Forrest) underground coal project owned by Korean steelmaker Posco (70%) and Cockatoo Coal (30%).

Employing a small target strategy, the state coalition also successfully went to the polls with a strategic land-use policy.

Points of this policy include reforms to mining legislation to protect agricultural interests and associated water resources, plus the aim to introduce tougher planning assessments while strategic land-use plans and planning reforms are developed.

The state coalition has promised to scrap part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and overhaul the planning system after recommendations are made by an independent expert panel.

Its aim is to enact new planning legislation around the middle of its first term of government.

While the coalition intends to include a reserve power for “genuinely state-significant developments”, it also aims to return planning powers to local communities.

Economics consultancy ACIL Tasman recently delved into the possible impacts from scrapping part 3A, assuming it would cause widespread delays for new coal mines and expansions, for at least two years.

“An important finding from the survey was the almost immediate impact on production of coal that would arise with any delay in licence approvals,” the consultancy said.

“This occurs because producers, particularly coal producers, are continuously applying for licences to produce from new areas in existing tenements.”

NuCoal Resources and private company Cascade Coal could also come under scrutiny from the new government lead by Premier-elect Barry O’Farrell.

The coalition aims to look into the circumstances in which those companies won their exploration licences.

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