The NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) held a community information session on Monday night in Singleton so anyone interested in asking questions or raising issues regarding Glencore's Glendell Continuation Project could do so directly with the Department's staff.
Its a move the DPE hoped would result in more community engagement in such projects earlier in the planning process.
Although there was less than 15 people in attendance they came determined to let the DPE know what they felt about the entire process. Its was a polite and respective exchange which we hope the DPE staff do relay back to those in government especially the current Minister Rob Stokes.
The DPE representatives were left in no doubt about the resident's frustration with the planning process how they felt totally ignored and about community concerns such as the deteriorating air quality in the Upper Hunter.
But it was the information provided by Plains Clans Womnnarua People representative Scott Franks that really highlighted issues in planning assessments.
Plains Clans Womnnarua People are the registered Native Title claimants for large tracts of the Hunter Valley including nearly 80 per cent of the region's mining operations - including the Glendell Continuation Project.
This fact carries with it various legislative requirements that must be adhered to when it comes to planning processes. One being that the claimants should have access to the site to make their own assessments of the Aboriginal cultural heritage.
Mr Franks said this had not been allowed to happen and therefore called for an immediate halt to the entire evaluation of the Project.
Ravensworth Homestead and its associated lands are at the heart of this matter. It was the site on October 2, 1826 of an Aboriginal massacre which Mr Franks said is not included in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
Failure to include this vitally important historical information leaves the existing EIS a flawed document in addition to it also lacking the native title claimants assessment of the site.
Heritage is important to all of us and if we are going to every achieve a true reconciliation with our First Peoples we need to acknowledge our conflicted past that included dispossession of their land.