Acland mine fight heads to country’s highest court
THE Oakey Coal Action Alliance has taken its fight against the expansion of the New Acland Coal Mine to the highest court in the land.
Represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, the OCAA has sought special leave to appeal to the High Court over the controversial Stage 3 expansion of the New Acland Coal mine.
The appeal relates to the September Queensland Court of Appeal decision, which dismissed both grounds of the alliance's appeal and found an historic Land Court decision over the mine was affected by apprehended bias.
Environmental Defenders Office CEO David Morris said the people of Acland deserved clarity on decisions that affected their homes and livelihoods.
Should New Acland Stage Three be approved?
"Our clients are fighting to protect some of the best agricultural land in Australia, and seeking to have a say over effects on their precious groundwater," he said.
"The Court of Appeal's latest decision has left a big question mark over Acland Stage 3 and it's in everyone's interest to see that resolved.
"It found the original Land Court decision was affected by apprehended bias, but at the same time found a subsequent decision that was in part bound by the original decision was valid.
"Usually a finding of apprehended bias would invalidate the whole judgement - in this case that did not occur. Our client's case is that that decision was not made in accordance with law.
"To add to the confusion, New Acland Coal has previously conceded that pursuing the apprehended bias claim was the 'nuclear' option which, if successful, would require a new Land Court hearing."
Mr Morris said "having sought to undermine the Land Court decision, New Acland Coal then sought to retain parts of the decision that were to its advantage".
"As a matter of principle, parties to litigation should be affected equally by a conclusion that a decision was affected by an apprehension of bias. The Court of Appeal's decision casts doubt on that proposition and, consequently, today we're asking the High Court to remove the doubt and uncertainty which accompanies the Court of Appeal's decision," he said.
"The farmers and residents of Acland need a fresh hearing in the Land Court regarding the impacts of coal mining on their land. They deserve their day in court, untainted by accusations of apprehended bias and unfairness.
"This is a case with much wider implications for the people of Queensland and beyond.
"It is a case about our ability as citizens to be confident in the judicial system and - where there has been a ruling of unfairness - to have their case heard again. Justice needs to be done and be seen to be done.
"Only the High Court can untangle this process now."