Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Mine Sent Back to Land Court Grounds for Appeal Dismissed; Acland Referred Back to Land Court

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Mine Sent Back to Land Court Grounds for Appeal Dismissed; Acland Referred Back to Land Court

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Newton Matthew.Newton@thechronicle.com.au

THE Court of Appeal has ordered applications for a mining lease and an amended environmental authority for New Acland Coal Mine's Stage 3 expansion be referred back to the Land Court.

In a judgement handed down yesterday, President of the Court of Appeal Justice Walter Sofronoff, Judge of Appeal Justice Anthe Philippides and Judge of the Trial Division Justice Martin Burns rejected both grounds of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance's appeal.

The OCAA was appealing Justice Helen Bowskill's 2018 judicial review, which had overturned the 2017 Land Court decision that recommended the $1 billion expansion not be approved.

In his judgement, Justice Sofronoff said grounds one and two of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance's appeal - that the jurisdiction of the Land Court permitted it to consider the issue of groundwater and Her Honour erred in coming to the contrary conclusion; and that Her Honour was wrong to conclude that the Member's reasons were inadequate - "must be rejected".

"In my respectful opinion, Bowskill J was right in her conclusion that it was outside the jurisdiction of the Land Court in this case to consider the effects of the proposed mining activities upon groundwater," Justice Sofronoff said.

Justice Sofronoff also found that contrary to Justice Bowskill's findings in her judicial review, some aspects of Land Court member Paul Smith's 2017 decision constituted "matters that would give rise to a reasonable apprehension in an objective lay observer that the Member might not have brought an impartial and dispassionate mind to bear upon his task".

"Bowskill J had set aside the Member's order and had remitted the referrals back to the Land Court," he said.

"Having regard to Her Honour's rejection of the respondent's case on apprehended bias, Her Honour made orders that would have permitted some of the findings of the Member to be maintained when the matter was to be reheard. …

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