The grant of special leave is the latest step in long running litigation concerning applications by New Acland Coal Pty Ltd for an expansion of its coal mine on the Darling Downs near the town of Oakey.
After a mammoth hearing that commenced in 2015 and ran for nearly 100 sitting days and nearly 2000 exhibits, in 2017 the Land Court recommended against the grant of approvals for the expansion, principally due to concerns over groundwater impacts.
In 2018 the Applicant for the mine expansion, New Acland Coal, successfully sought judicial review of the Land Court’s decision in the Supreme Court before Bowskill J, principally on the basis that groundwater quantity was not within the jurisdiction of the Land Court to consider. Bowskill J rejected New Acland Coal’s claim of apprehended bias by the Land Court member.
OCAA appealed to the Court of Appeal against that decision and New Acland Coal cross-appealed on apprehended bias.
In 2019 the Court of Appeal upheld New Acland Coal’s cross appeal and found the Land Court member’s decision was affected by apprehended bias. It dismissed OCCA’s appeal.
However, in a second judgment, the Court of Appeal declined to set aside the Land Court member’s decision based on utility.
OCCA successfully sought special leave to appeal against Court of Appeal’s decision not to set aside the Land Court member’s decision and remit the matter to the Land Court for rehearing.
Stephen Keim SC
5 June 2020