Another trip to court is looming over the proposal to close Wallaby Scrub Road

It may only be around six kilometres long but the convict built Wallaby Scrub Road certainly attracts plenty of attention.

The road links the villages of Bulga and Warkworth, just to the west of Singleton, and really its what lies beneath this heritage site that is the reason for its intense interest by not one but two mining giants.

Wallaby Scrub Road is located smack bang in the middle of a substantial coal reserve that forms part of the approved Warkworth open cut coal mine expansion. This wealth was once sought by Rio Tinto and now claimed by the Chinese miner Yancoal who purchased the mine in 2017.

Although the mine expansion is approved it does not automatically follow that the road has to close.

And therein lies the problem for Yancoal. They have sought to have the road closed to enable their expansion plans to proceed and Singleton Council has voted to close the road and accept $27.5 million from Yancoal for the site on the condition that the road is closed by September 26.

However, Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association, who have fought since 2010 to have the road and other areas preserved as set out in a 2003 Deed of Agreement, have legal advice saying the Council’s process to close the road is invalid.

Singleton Council argue that the legal legal advice they received states their process is legally sound.

The person who will have to make a decision soon the Minister for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole says he is reviewing the situation.

Locals gather at a protest in July 2016

Locals gather at a protest in July 2016

But that deadline awaits – so what will happen?

The law should win. It did in 2013 with Justice Preston’s decision in the Land and Environment Court to reject the expansion plans for Warkworth and thereby preserve Wallaby Scrub Road and Saddle Ridge. The law won again when that decision was upheld on appeal.

The law won again when its was ruled two aboriginal elders were wrongfully arrested in 2016 at a peaceful protest calling for the protection of the road.

And the law must prevail now otherwise why have these statutes. If the law is not upheld then this community’s trust is lost.

Singleton Council has already removed signs at the intersection of Wallaby Scrub and Putty roads - maybe a bit too early. Photo supplied.

Singleton Council has already removed signs at the intersection of Wallaby Scrub and Putty roads - maybe a bit too early. Photo supplied.

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