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Greens Air Pollution Inquiry – Stories from the Hunter

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Richard Di Natale 18 Apr 2013

Public Forum

On the eve of the hearing, Richard and Lee met with local residents affected by poor air quality in the Hunter region. Richard spoke about the health impacts of air pollution and heard from Hunter Valley locals including Zoe Rogers from Coal Terminal Action Group, John Drinan from Singleton Shire Healthy Environment Group, Upper Hunter resident John Kaye, Cathy Burgess from Stockton Community Action Group, Steven Phillips from Hunter Central Rivers Alliance, John Hayes from Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield Group, and representatives from the Tighes Hill Community Group Islington Village Community Groups.

All of these groups expressed concern about the adequacy of air quality monitoring and the information available to people living in the Hunter. Community campaigner Zoe Rogers summed up the sentiment of the meeting, saying:

"people just don't know what is in the air that they are breathing, and the hearing presents a great opportunity for affected community members to raise their concerns and to be heard".

This picture shows what a clean, white piece of cloth looks like after it was used to wipe jet-black coal dust from the outside of a home in the Hunter Valley. Even more concerning is the dust residue on the tissue in the picture which was used to wipe a surface on the inside of the same house!

Coal dust in Tighes Hill

Hearing

There is strong evidence that particulates and compounds from sources such as coal dust are affecting the health of many communities across the country, and that there is no safe level of particulate pollution for human health.

At the hearing, the Inquiry heard evidence from the Australian Medical Association, community groups (Hunter Community Environmental Centre, Hunter Valley Protection Alliance, and Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association, Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield Group and Stockton Community Action Group), government agencies and scientific agencies (CSIRO, the Centre for Air Quality and Health Research Evaluation and NSW Environmental Protection Authority), industry group Minerals Council of Australia, local government (Lake Macquarie City Council), environment groups (Nature Conservation Council of NSW, The Wilderness Society Newcastle) and local resident Mr John Sutton.

Evidence to the hearing showed that ultrafine particle pollution represents a serious threat to human health and that Australia needs national standards to cut it, that current monitoring is ineffective, and that even when there were breaches of national limits little was done.

Transcripts for the entire hearing are now available, and you can listen to Richard speaking about the Inquiry on ABC Radio National Breakfast, The World Today and Radio Australia.

Share your story

The Inquiry has received hundreds of submissions, and the Greens continue to hear from individuals and communities from across Australia affected by air pollution.

We want to hear these stories. We have created a form to allow people to get in touch with us quickly and easily.

If you know of any groups or individuals in your local area who want to add their voices to this important national conversation, please share our form widely so they can share their story with us and with the Inquiry.

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