Open Letter to Listed Ministers

To the Hon. Mike Baird, Premier, the Hon. Stuart Ayres, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, the Hon. Rob Stokes, Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Pru Goward, Minister for Planning.

Thank you for your expressions of impatience and concern regarding the winter clearing being carried out by Whitehaven Coal (“Patience wears thin as miners drag out environment plans for threatened Leard State Forest,” Sydney Morning Herald, 30-05-2014). I can assure you that many of us in the community share your concerns! Given the astonishing environmental destruction taking place, Whitehaven’s suspiciously absent paperwork and their woefully inadequate biodiversity management strategy, we are sure that you’re preparing a stop work order and arranging for auditors to assess the impact of the clearing as soon as possible.

We all understand that such measures take time to implement. Unfortunately, while you pursue that avenue, Whitehaven’s activities continue to devastate this unique ecosystem at its most vulnerable time. Worse yet, destroying the forest also involves destroying much of the evidence, which means that by the time you’re able to prepare auditors it may be too late to prove Whitehaven’s crimes.

Thankfully, several members of the community have stepped up and taken it upon themselves to document breaches of Whitehaven’s Biodiversity Management Plan. There’s no need to worry, they’re keeping careful records, so you’ll be able to arrange adequate remuneration for these auditors for the hours they’ve logged. The only problem is, they have asked to remain anonymous – at least for the present.

You see, our community auditors have somehow gotten the absurd notion into their heads that they could be brought up on charges for this service. It is understandable, in a way. After all, if we didn’t know better, we’d have to assume that the police have been instructed to act as private security for Whitehaven Coal! Despite the deeply concerning manner of the clearing carried out by the company, the police have been using extraordinary resources for their benefit, including blocking Leard Forest Road day and night for 10 days, patrolling the minesite in place of Whitehaven’s actual security, and sending a helicopter to fly over the protest camp.

Nevertheless, I’m sure that a simple statement from the Premier’s office or the office of the Minister for Police and Emergency services declaring that no legal action will be taken against individuals documenting Whitehaven’s clearing would be sufficient to set their minds at ease. Then we can release the logs, and the matter of remuneration can be settled quite amicably.

Thank you, ministers. We await your reply.