When will Wallaby Scrub Road be closed?

Yancoal, owners of the Mount Thorley Warkworth (MTW) open cut, are expecting an announcement soon on the closure of Wallaby Scrub Road.

The road which links Bulga to Warkworth needs to be closed to allow for the expansion of the company’s Warkworth mine pit. Approval for the expansion of the mine was gained by its former owners Rio Tinto in 2015.

Rio Tinto sold the MTW complex to Yancoal in a multi billion dollar deal that also included the neigbouring Hunter Valley Operations in September last year.

However, since the first plans were proposed for the expansion of Warkworth mine in 2010, local residents and their supporters have campaigned long and hard and even been arrested, as they tried to prevent the heritage road from being closed. This road was first built by convicts in the early 1800s.

A protest at Wallaby Scrub Road in 2016.

A protest at Wallaby Scrub Road in 2016.

They won court battles to protect the road and surrounding areas from mining but now they face the imminent prospect of seeing the road closed.

According to Yancoal they have begun clearing land for the construction of essential infrastructure to support continued operations and commenced installing new fencing around the future operating boundaries to ensure a safe, secure mine site.

They have also started construction of an access road to enable access for emergency services

Last year at their meeting on August 28, Singleton Council resolved that an application be made by Council in its capacity as the roads authority, to close 5.99km of Wallaby Scrub Road from the intersection of Putty Road.

Council submitted its application to the NSW Department of Primary Industries - Lands on  December 18, 2017, with a determination for approval to be made by the Minister for Lands and Forestry. The Department will traditionally undertake a review of the report and documentation within 60 days of receipt of the application from Council, and a determination for the closure of the road is expected soon.

During the same meeting, Singleton Council also resolved, subject to the Minister’s approval, to sell the land title of the closed road.

In a statement released by Yancoal it said Mount Thorley Warkworth continues to work with Council towards finalising the sales process.

Friends of Wallaby Scrub Road (FOWSR) said the application by Singleton Council in December 2017 to close Wallaby Scrub Road cannot be considered by the Minister for Lands and Forestry until the Minister has caused to be published a notice in a local newspaper inviting submissions on the proposal.

“The Minister has a legal duty to publish this notice and consider all submissions.  Friends of Wallaby Scrub Road wrote to the Department of Industry – Lands in February 2018 asking when the notice would be published.  It is still waiting for a reply,” they said.

“Friends of Wallaby Scrub Road are stakeholders in the proposal by Singleton Council to close Wallaby Scrub Road.  We are confident that on a proper consideration by the Minister of all relevant facts he will be satisfied that it is necessary that Wallaby Scrub Road should remain open as a public road.”