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2020 CCLR 98 (2020)
Rocky Hill: A Legal Breakthrough in the Consideration of Climate Change and Social Impacts of Coal Mines

handle is hein.journals/cclr2020 and id is 114 raw text is: CCLR 212020

Rocky Hill: A Legal Breakthrough in the
Consideration of Climate Change and Social
Impacts of Coal Mines
Elena Aydos, Belinda Charlton, Gabrielle Cornett, Kelsey Gray and Nita Scott*
A Superior Court in the Australian state of New South Wales refused consent to a coal mine
because of its future contribution to global climate change. Rocky Hill illustrates a watershed
moment in the consideration of climate change and social impacts in Australia, representing
a significant step beyond what the Courts had previously ruled in relation to those matters.
The significance of the decision extends beyond its progressive approach to the recognition of
the causal link between coal mining and the impacts of global climate change. The case recog-
nises that lay people still play a part in the democracy of planning decisions, giving voice to
minority groups such as Aboriginal people and their views on their living culture and heritage.

I. Introduction
In early 2019, a Superior Court in the Australian state
of New South Wales (NSW)' refused consent to a
coal mine because of its future contribution to glob-
al climate change and its resultant inappropriate im-
pacts on the local environment. Gloucester Resources
Limited vMinisterforPlanning ('Rocky Hill')2 has been
heralded as a landmark case in climate litigation.3
The significance of the decision extends beyond its
progressive approach to the recognition of the causal
link between a local coal mine and the impacts of cli-
mate change. The Court addressed broader doctrinal
implications of the principles of ecologically sustain-
able development, including intra-generational and
inter generational equity, physical and social impacts
and the importance of 'Country' to Aboriginal people.
DOI: 10.21 552/cclr/2020/2/5
Elena Aydos, Senior Lecturer at the Newcastle Law School,
University of Newcastle, Australia; Belinda Charlton, Principal
Solicitor, Belinda Charlton Lawyers, Master of Environmental
Law, PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle; Gabrielle
Cornett, Bachelor of International Studies, Juris Doctor, Master of
Laws candidate at the University of Newcastle; Kelsey Gray,
Bachelor of Laws (Honours)/Bachelor of Science (Biology) candi-
date at the University of Newcastle; Nita Scott, Bachelor of
Urban and Regional Planning, Master of Natural Resources,
Master of Environmental Law candidate at the University of
Newcastle.
1   The Land and Environment Court of NSW is a superior Court of
specialisation that is a branch of the NSW Supreme Court.
2   Gloucester Resources Limited v Minister for Planning [2019]
NSWLEC 7.

Indeed, Rocky Hill recognised that both social and en-
vironmental impacts are burdens that are unequally
distributed within and across generations.
Former High Court Justice the Honorable Michael
Kirby AC stated that Rocky Hill 'shows how far the
law has come and how fast it is moving'.4 This paper
assesses the extent to which Rocky Hill represents a
significant step beyond what the Court had previous-
ly ruled in relation to the climate change and social
impacts of coal mining in Australia.
II. The Facts of the Case and the
Determination
The Gloucester township and surrounds provide a
gateway to the pristine Barrington Tops World Her-
3   Lesley Hughes, 'The Rocky Hill decision: a watershed for climate
change action?' (2019) 37 Journal of Energy & Natural Resources
Law 3, 341; The Hon Michael Kirby AC 'Environmental and
Planning Law in the Age of Human Rights and Climate Change'
(2019) 36 Environmental and Planning Law Journal 3, 181; Rob
Fowler, 'Case-note: Gloucester Resources Limited v. Minister for
Planning' (IUCN, 31 Jul 2019) <https://www.iucn.org/news/world
-commission-environmental-law/201907/case-note-gloucester
-resources-limited-v-minister-planning#_ftn6>; Elaine Johnson,
Matt Floro, and Jasper Brown, 'GRL v Minister for Planning: a
decision for the right place -at the right time' (EDO NSW, 2
April 2019) <https://www.edonsw.org.au/legal_update_rockyhill
>; Hedda Askland,'Place matters: Rocky Hill and social impact'
Newcastle Herald (Newcastle, NSW, 22 February 2019). <https://
www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/591 6593/place-matters-rocky
-hill-and-social-impact/> accessed 27 November 2019.
4   Kirby (n 3).

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