People deserve priority

A copy of former Planning Minister John Thwaites' assessment of the Big Hill proposal and his decision to not allow the open pit mining of Big Hill dated November 6, 2000 should be compulsory reading for Northern Grampians Shire Council, for the press and for all interested residents of Stawell.

It should be printed in all local papers.

He was a minister in the Bracks Labor government, which had defeated the Kennett government in October, 1999, which occurred just before the panel hearing in January 2000. We would not have saved Stawell if the Kennett government had won the election because they did not take any notice of panel recommendations.

The Labor government might have allowed it but we got hold of a written promise they made before the election that they would not overturn panel decisions.

This letter from the minister sets out very clearly why you could not do such a terrible thing to a small town and it is tragic that Northern Grampians council voted on this issue without bothering to find out what happened last time.

Local Business

How can this happen again in a developed nation which prides itself on its freedoms and respect for people's property rights?

How can community leaders look in the mirror and say they are looking after their people?

Last time, when we had an environmental effects statement process that lasted almost two years, there was so much damage to the community people were socially isolated, they feared that they would not be able to stay and would lose their homes.

Families were divided, friends crossed the street to avoid conversation and a number of people became sad and depressed.

Residents in Fisher Street could not move because they could not sell their houses, unlike those in Upper Main Street, where it was all done very privately and the public was not to find out that the mine had bought several houses which would have had to be demolished.

These deals were organised before the open pit was granted.

All this and more happened and we were only in the planning stage.

Graeme and I, together with Wendy and Jim Melbourne, went to a beautiful town in New Zealand called Waihi.

The manager of Stawell Gold Mines had been the manager of their mine when they were given permission to open a pit mine in the town.

That was the saddest three days of my life.

They had this huge pit, they had lost 200 houses and part of their gardens, and Main Street had fallen into old mine diggings.

The people had given up and were exhausted by the fight, but they had one thing Stawell does not have a pleasant beach town just a few kilometres down the road.

The older residents were devastated by what had happened to their lovely town.

If this is rushed through then how will you know that all the checks and balances are in place to protect the community's health, welfare, ambience and financial and property stability?

Don't believe that they will rehabilitate Big Hill and fill the voids because you can search the world and you will not find a mining void which has been fully restored.

My research shows that it costs about twice as much per truckload to bring fill in as it took to take the rock out.

Think about the mess they always leave.

Why would they stay around when the gold is finished?

They never have in the past and you just have to look at the front of Big Hill when they did drilling in 1997-98. Ask the old Apexians how they felt when all their hard work was bulldozed.

I find it hard to believe that this could be happening and I am sad that people who were so damaged last time are phoning me and are miserable because they had only just got their lives back .

Please show me that for country towns, people are more important than dollars, that your leaders will not sell you out for a handful of brief and damaging jobs.

Barbara Bennett

Banksia Beach, Queensland,

formerly of Stawell

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