New Hope’s expansion plans have been sent back to the Land Court for a fresh hearing (Photo: TSBE)

February 3, 2021

The High Court has allowed an appeal by the action group opposed to New Hope’s controversial Stage 3 expansion of New Acland Coal mine, sending the original application back to the Land Court for a new hearing.

The decision in favour of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance was handed down by Chief Justice Susan Kiefel and four fellow justices on Wednesday morning.

The Full Court decision set aside orders made by the Queensland Court of Appeal on November 1, 2019, and by the Queensland Supreme Court on May 28, 2018.

The judges ordered that New Acland’s applications be referred back to the Land Court of Queensland to be reconsidered, and that New Acland pay OCAA’s costs for the High Court appeal.

However, both parties have to bear their own costs for the earlier Supreme Court appeal and cross-appeal.

In December 2019, New Hope described OCAA’s High Court action as “stunt” and “nothing more than a mechanism to attempt to delay a final decision” on the Stage 3 Acland expansion.

“We have been seeking approval to expand New Acland Mine for more than 12 years,” New Hope Chief Operating Officer Andrew Boyd said at the time.

“Over the past two years we have fought and won a series of legal battles against a handful of objectors to the project.

“This latest stunt by OCAA has nothing to do with groundwater or any other environmental issue.

“It is clear that this action is nothing more than an attempt to delay final decisions on Stage 3.”

  • Download: High Court judgments by Chief Justice Kiefel jointly with Justices Bell, Gageler and Keane; and Justice Edelman (310kb PDF)

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Farmers from the Oakey Coal Action Alliance say they are relieved and excited after the High Court found in their favour.

“It is a relief OCAA has been saved from any action against it,” OCAA president Aileen Harrison said.

“We hope that we can win from here on in and get the mine stopped, so we can save our water and land, and leave it for future generations.”

OCAA secretary Paul King said the result was a win on all counts.

“It is a better outcome than we could have hoped for,” he said.

“We have won on all counts and New Hope has been ordered to pay costs to the High Court.

“The High Court’s decision is, in our view, vindication that the Darling Downs is for farming – not coal mining.”

[UPDATED]

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