THE blockade of Carter's Lane in Sutton Forest has come to an end by order of the NSW Land and Environment Court.
In a judgement handed down on Friday morning, Justice Sheahan declared that Hume Coal had the right to use Carter’s Lane to access a property owned by Robert Koltai.
Hume Coal and Mr Koltai had agreed to a Land Access Agreement in mid-2012, allowing the company to drill three bore holes on the land for the purpose of coal exploration.
“It has taken a long time to get to this result and it has been a very difficult time for us,” Mr Koltai said. “I hope people will now do the right thing.”
Carter’s Lane is on land owned by the Alexander family and it was Ross Alexander who allowed the protesters to blockade the land and not allow Hume Coal access to Mr Koltai’s property.
The blockaders were supported by Southern Highlands Coal Action Group which has been fighting to get mining laws changed to be more favourable to landowners and environmental concerns.
At the core of the issue was a covenant on the land off Carter’s Lane which stated that the property shall not be used for any industrial or commercial purpose except agricultural.
In his judgment, Justice Sheahan determined that “private covenants … are irrelevant to grants of exploration licenses” and that regardless, this covenant does not apply to prospecting.
The court also ruled that Hume Coal was not required to have a Land Access Agreement to drive across Mr Alexander’s property via Carter’s Lane and that Carter’s Lane was the most convenient access route to the exploration sites on Mr Koltai’s property.
“The decision confirms the company’s position that there has been no legal impediment to us accessing the Koltai property to undertake exploration and environmental monitoring,” Hume Coal project manager Tim Rheinberger said.
“It also validates our position that a covenant over a number of properties in the vicinity has no bearing on our activities.
“While we are pleased with the decision we are deeply disappointed that the owners of Carters Lane and the Southern Highlands Coal Action Group set up the blockade and caused this unnecessary action in the first place.”
SHCAG coordinator Time Frost said the group would disband the blockade.
“SHCAG of course will abide by the law as we expect others to do the same,” he said.
“We don’t really see it as a win or a loss, it’s just process and our broader intention is to get the laws changed, particularly the NSW Mining Act which is outdated, weighed in favour of exploitation and not protecting the environment.
“SHCAG will continue to support landowners who are against allowing mining companies onto their land. Hume Coal has stepped up their land access program and is currently trying to drag a handful of landowners through arbitration.