Despite close to an hour of discussion on coal mining at the May 10 council meeting, a decision on the matter was deferred.
Councillors debated the issue of making a submission in response to Hume Coal’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for about 45 minutes.
The debate began when councillors were asked to adopt the minutes of the Environment and Sustainability Advisory Committee Meeting held on April 19.
The committee recommended council staff work with Coal Free Southern Highlands to make the submission. Councillor Larry Whipper argued passionately that council should make a submission stating its position on the project.
“We’ve worked hard with members of the community to protect against this assault. This is like Swiss cheese, this EIS has so many holes in it you can see it from the moon,” he said.
This EIS has so many holes in it you can see it from the moon
“Councillors, this is the time to be counted. We’ll all be judged on how we stand on this.”
But his fellow councillors raised questions about the validity of making a submission in partnership with an external group.
Crs Garry Turland and Ken Halstead shared concerns about working with a group outside council.
“The council, the staff, us as an elected body, should not be preparing something in conjunction with some other community group,” Cr Halstead said.
He said a report from council should look at both sides of the argument. “It’s going to be pointing out what the problems are and what the good things are. That’s exactly what an assessment of an EIS should be.”
Councillors agreed a submission needed to be made but questions remained as to what position council would take and who would write the submission.
While the minutes of the Environment and Sustainability Advisory Committee meeting were adopted, the matter was deferred to seek further advice from the environment and economic committees.
Any budgetary concerns will also be referred to the finance committee and a report will be presented at the June 14 meeting.