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McKay clears air on coal

Jodi McKayHUNTER Minister Jodi McKay says more must be done to redress the imbalance of the coal industry’s impact on communities.

The member for Newcastle also said the Roads and Traffic Authority had failed to levy major Kooragang Island projects for a share of the cost of a duplicated Tourle Street bridge.

Ms McKay supported an air quality monitoring network in the Lower Hunter and said sites were being examined for monitors along rail lines to the port through areas such as Maitland, Warabrook and Tighes Hill.

Her comments came yesterday after the state government declared the proposed ‘T4’ fourth coal terminal would be assessed under major project planning laws.

The federal government gave the multibillion-dollar Port Waratah Coal Services proposal ‘major project facilitation status’ to help smooth the assessment process.

Ms McKay said she supported the project but recognised it would be ‘‘controversial’’.

She said the RTA should seek contributions under any approval for the terminal for funding towards the cost of a duplicated Tourle Street bridge and Cormorant Road.

The government opted to build a new bridge at the site with two lanes instead of four and demolished the old two-lane structure.

It has since begun planning for a second two-lane bridge.

Ms McKay said the RTA had not sought contributions from Kooragang Island industrial projects for the road upgrades and it should work more closely with the Planning Department.

On dust impacts, Ms McKay said she supported a dedicated team to respond to coal monitoring and compliance, but skirted questions yesterday on whether cabinet colleagues supported her stance.

‘‘This is an industry that supports more than 15,000 to 16,000 direct jobs and we have to acknowledge that if that is to continue that there has to be an approach that also supports the communities affected by coalmining,’’ she said.

Ms McKay rejected suggestions her comments were in part angled to Greens voters or a preference deal.

Newcastle Greens candidate John Sutton said party members were yet to consider any preference deal, but climate change and coal policies would be ‘‘key considerations’’.

He said it was ‘‘disappointing’’ Ms McKay continued to ‘‘actively advocate’’ expanded coal exports rather than the need to moving away from coal.

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