After years of debate, in the end, the closure of Wallaby Scrub Road came very quickly.
First it was gazetted closed by NSW Minister for Lands, Paul Toole around mid-day on Friday, September 7, and then later that afternoon Singleton Council announced they had finalised the sale of the road for $27.5 million to the Chinese miner Yancoal.
Yancoal need the road closed so they can access their approved Warkworth coal mine extension. And to mark the road’s change in ownership barricades, signs and security staff appeared at the intersection of Wallaby Scrub and Putty roads.
In response to the road’s closure the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association (BMPA), who have long fought to prevent such an occurrence, had their legal representatives the NSW Environment Defenders Office send a letter to Yancoal saying “The BMPA has requested Yancoal to provide an undertaking that it will not commence work on the road until after the validity of the road closure has been determined by the Court, or to at least provide 5 days' notice of the commencement of works, so BMPA has time to consider any potential legal action necessary to restrain the works until the road closure validity issue has been resolved.”
A Yancoal spokesperson responded stating “We are being guided by the Crown's decision and have already conducted a series of critical path archaeological investigations of the road surface and will soon complete a series of works in accordance with our approved management plans and development consent compliance requirements for historical and cultural heritage.”
On Saturday a rally “Rise for Climate’ was held on land adjacent to Putty Road it was a peaceful affair attended by members of the BMPA and their supporters.
Participants at the rally told the Singleton Argus they were disappointed that the previous evening at the regular Bulga Community Centre’s raffle night police came and questioned people about the rally and advised them that the police would not tolerate protesters.
Hunter Valley Police District, Inspector Jo Schultz commenting on the police visit to the centre said there was minimal notice regarding the road closure so police were tasked with liaising with members of the community Friday night to gauge the level of interest in the gathering on Saturday.
“This was to ensure we had adequate resources available on Saturday to provide a safe location for lawful protest. I repeat there was no sinister intent by police speaking to the community and we try to engage with the community as much as possible,” she said.
Bulga resident Wayne Riley said he was not so much concerned with who owns the road but the fact its closure will put traffic pressure on and already dangerous intersection of the Golden Highway and Putty Road.
He argues no consideration had been given by anyone involved in this process to the increase in traffic that will now be turning right from the Golden Highway onto Putty Road once Wallaby Scrub Road was shut.
“Closing Wallaby Scrub Road means hundreds of extra vehicles daily will be using that notorious intersection – it has created a Golden Highway death trap just up the road from the one at its intersection with the New England Highway,” he said.
“Singleton Council should never allowed the closure of Wallaby Scrub Road until that intersection near Mount Thorley was upgraded. Its negligent of them to have followed the path they have – people lives are now at risk.”
“I call for the immediate re-opening of the road until that intersection is upgraded. If that saves one life then it will be worth the effort.”
Mr Riley said at peak times during change of mine shifts the intersection would be ‘overloaded’.
Singleton responded saying the Golden Highway intersection, it’s not for Council to comment given that the intersection in question is a State road and enquiries should be directed to the RMS. However, Council will continue work with RMS on all State road issues affecting our local government area.
Comment was sought from the NSW Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey but at the time of publication no respond to questions raised had been received.