Alan Brown, grazier and miner, at New Acland Coal Mine. Picture: Claudia Baxter
Alan Brown, grazier and miner, at New Acland Coal Mine. Picture: Claudia Baxter

New Hope for miner after judge speaks out

NEW Hope is likely to ask for another judicial officer to hear its case in the Land Court after a judge strongly criticised the findings of member Paul Smith.

The Supreme Court this week set aside the Land Court's recommendations to not approve New Hope's mining lease at the New Acland expansion, and will send the case back to the lower court for another hearing.

Industry sources said the 122-page New Hope judgment from Justice Helen Bowskill was a slapdown for the Land Court.

Although she found there was no apprehended bias in the decision by Member Smith, she said the reasons he gave for his decision "give the impression that many of his personal thoughts and feelings about the case and the participants in it are expressed in the reasons, unnecessarily and undesirably.''

She said it might reasonably be apprehended that the Land Court member "has said too much'' and that there were parts of Member Smith's reasons "which make for uncomfortable reading''.

The industry believes the approvals system needs a complete makeover because of the delays and legal hurdles thrown in front of projects.

It has taken New Hope 11 years, five governments and four environmental impact statements to get over its current legal hurdle.

"What the (New Hope) decision shows is that there needs to be a reset in how this is done,'' Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said, pointing out that there were times during the New Hope Land Court hearing when information was downloaded from the web and presented as evidence.

"There need to be stricter guidelines about real evidence.''

The State Government agreed to reforming the Land Court before the last election.