THE NSW government has refused to explain why the installation of a new air pollution monitoring network for the Namoi region has been delayed.
In June, Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton announced the new government-run network was expected to be up and running by the end of the year.
Neither Ms Upton, nor the Department of Environment, would provide an update or timeline on the installation of the six monitoring stations, but with just two weeks left in 2017, it appears unlikely it will be delivered as promised.
Ms Upton said the government would “keep the community updated” on the delivery of the network.
However when The Leader asked for said update, a spokesperson for the minister declined to comment further.
“The NSW government is working with industry and the community to establish an air quality monitoring network in the Namoi region,” Ms Upton said.
The new system comes after years of criticism from environmentalist and community groups, who claim mining companies couldn’t be relied upon to monitor their own pollution.
Environmental Justice Australia researcher James Whelan’s investigation into Whitehaven’s independent monitoring system was a big factor in the government introducing the new system.
He says the community deserves answers.
“Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton promised in May that we’d be able to access air pollution data from six or seven government run monitoring stations by Christmas,” Mr Whelan said.
“If that promise isn’t going to be kept, the minister owes communities in the Namoi an explanation at least.”
Lock the Gate NSW coordinator George Wood said it was “really disappointing” the government hadn’t moved on the “very basic first step”, which was already long overdue.
“The government always seem eager to move quickly on demands made by the coal industry, but when it’s something to protect the community’s health, there are inevitably delays,” Ms Wood said.
“What on earth is the hold up? The technology is available and the promise has been made. This monitoring system is important to understand the contribution mines are making in regards to air pollution.”
Whitehaven Coal, which operates six mines in the region, welcomed the new monitoring system.
By Jamieson Murphy
Published in the Northern Daily Leader on 20 December 2017