Why good planning counts and why we should respect the courts

On what was one of the hottest July days on record a handful of people opposed to the expansion of Rio Tinto’s Warkworth mine gathered in protest on the Putty Road opposite the mine.

They chose a site on the road that overlooked Saddleback Ridge -the land that was decreed in a 2003 deed of agreement between the NSW Government and the mining giant as being protected in perpetuity from mining.

Unfortunately that deed of agreement wasn't worth the paper it was written on according to the NSW Government and the mining company.

Because on Monday Saddleback Ridge was under heavy attack from mining equipment and looks likely to disappear from sight before too long.

Those opposed to the mine’s expansion, in particular the destruction of Saddleback Ridge the closure of Wallaby Scrub Road and the loss of the endangered Warkworth Sands Woodlands, have to date pursued their opposition through legal recourse.

They have won two landmark court cases that both said the mine should not proceed.

But the Government and the mining company have proceeded as if those court cases were non-existent or actually favoured the mine proceeding.

So what happens to people when they do the right thing go to the court and win, rely on business and governments to uphold deed of agreements ,only to see them torn up – they get very frustrated and angry.

Six years of mounting frustration takes its toll.

So on Monday at that small and peaceful protest when the police arrive and tell them they must move on because they are breaking the law – they shake their heads in disbelief.

We are breaking they law they reply. We won the court cases we didn't rip up a deed of agreement.

We aren’t destroying a heritage listed road – Wallaby Scrub Road built by convict labour in the 1830s. We are here to uphold our rights as citizens.

The arrival of the police and the threat of arrest upset two Aboriginal elders who said they had been treated like dirt all their lives and today nothing has changed.

They were both arrested. It was shocking to watch.

So how did it come to this. 

Woeful government leadership and atrocious planning laws.