Cessnock City Council will advocate for the NSW Government to rescind the Wollombi coal exploration licence.
At last Wednesday's meeting, Ward A Liberal councillor Paul Dunn moved that the general manager reply to correspondence from Deputy Premier John Barilaro and express that council's preferred option is for Licence AUTH263 to be "proposed for and ultimately relinquished".
Council had written to Mr Barilaro in July to note its concerns after the state government revealed its Strategic Statement on Coal Exploration and Mining, which has earmarked about 178 square kilometres between Wollombi and Broke as potential area for coal exploration. In his response to council, Mr Barilaro said the government has not made a decision to release the Wollombi area for commercial coal exploration for mining.
"Furthermore, the granting of a coal exploration license does not provide the right to mine," he said.
"It's also important to note that AUTH263 excludes the townships of Broke and Wollombi.
"The Department of Regional NSW is currently in the process of relinquishing a number of coal exploration licences. Once this is complete, the Government will have reduced the area covered by Crown-held exploration licences from 18,635 km2 to 1507 km2."
Cr Dunn said the matter had caused "great unnecessary animosity" in the community, and that council needed to support the residents of Wollombi.
"It's not every role to create jobs, sometimes we need to preserve history, and our council needs to be very clear on our position on this," he said.
"We all support the community of Wollombi, and it's not a place where mining should exist."
Cr Dunn also moved that the general manager write to Member for Cessnock, Clayton Barr and the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Catherine Cusack to seek their support on the matter.
At the same meeting, council showed its support for the proposed gas-fired power generator at Kurri Kurri.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last month that the federal government will build a gas power plant at Kurri Kurri if the energy sector does not replace the capacity lost from the closure of Liddell power station in 2023, and and has given the industry until the end of April next year to show it can replace Liddell's capacity.
Ward D Liberal councillor Rod Doherty moved that the general manager write to various federal and state parliamentarians to request that they show their support for a gas-fired power generator, which is proposed to be built at the former Hydro Aluminium site.
The smelter closed in 2012, with 600 jobs lost.
"I believe we should support this - the Hydro site is being decommissioned, the electrical infrastructure is still there, it would be the ideal place to put it," Cr Doherty said.
Deputy mayor Darrin Gray (Labor) said he would welcome the power station in Kurri Kurri.
"We are in a really good position to welcome these types of developments," he said.
"The development of Kurri as a renewable centre of energy generation just makes sense to its location in the Hunter.
"The economic value to the town, and the jobs that would be created directly in Kurri, is a really great opportunity.
"If it's going to be built, we welcome it."
Independent councillor Ian Olsen said the gas plant is a "great idea" for Kurri.
"We need power, we'll run out of power when we stop the use of coal," he said.
"If we don't have this up and running we'll be in real dire straits.
"I don't see solar solving everything. For employment in Kurri and the district, and to supply power to the Hunter Valley, this has to go ahead."
Cr Doherty's notice of motion asked that, as part of its letter, council highlights the economic, employment, social and environmental benefits this project will bring to the Hunter, in particular the Cessnock local government area.
The letter will be sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, federal energy minister Angus Taylor, federal MPs Joel Fitzgibbon and Meryl Swanson, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian MP, state energy and environment minister Matthew Kean and Cessnock MP Clayton Barr.
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