Health District Board reluctantly agrees to meet Wyong Coal over $14.8M donation

Wyong Hospital SignThe entrance to Wyong Hospital on the Central Coast.

Wyong Coal representatives and the Board of Central Coast Local Health District will meet next Wednesday, February 12, to discuss a proposal by the mining company to donate $14.8M to health services.

Chief Executive of the District, Dr Andrew Montague, said the meeting was “to discuss the Board’s decision to decline the funding offer.
“While the District appreciates offers of financial support from the business community, the Board determined that this proposal was not appropriate to accept at this stage, due to current community sentiment and potential public health effects, particularly in relation to air quality and noise pollution,” Dr Montague said.

Wyong Coal operates the Korean owned Wallarah 2 longwall mine which was approved by the NSW Government in 2018 to operate in the Dooralong and Yarramalong valleys.
Project manager of the mine, Ken Barry, said a meeting with the Board was first sought about mid 2019.

“We wanted to put forward a proposal for a significant amount of money which was going to be paid to them before December 31,” he said.
“It was to be a partnership proposal between Wyong Coal, the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Central Coast Local Health District.

“We thought it was a good idea to target Wyong Hospital because it was in our direct community and the money we were offering up front was $100,000 to be paid before the end of the year.
“Initially we got very favourable feedback that the Board would like to meet with us and discuss our proposal,” Barry said.
“We were pretty excited because, as a company, we’re going to be a member of this community for a long time and we saw this as an opportunity to give something back to the community as we moved on with the mining operations.

“The problem was that the Local Health District Board refused to speak to us, even though at first they gave us positive feedback
“Generally, it shouldn’t be that hard to give away money,” Barry said.
“It’s really disappointing.
“It seems to us that a unilateral decision has been made by the CEO and members of the Board based upon policy on the run, and policy of their own, based on their concerns about health, air quality and noise, which is just outrageous.

“It’s already been demonstrated that these things are not as big an issue as what’s put out there,” Barry said.
“To compound that, there’s a community out there that’s crying out for better services and they’re not getting them.
“We’re not getting into any argument about government funding, that’s got nothing to do with us, but if in any way we can contribute to the wellbeing of the community, this is a fantastic way to do it.

“Shouldn’t that really be considered and shouldn’t the Board at least meet with us and hear us out,” Barry said.
“Now the Board has agreed to meet us on February 12 and we need to at least talk about our proposal, which would have amounted to almost $15M over the 28-year life of the mine.
“I can’t give an annual figure, but last year $100,000 was offered and we were hoping to roll the program into this year, however, the District has already done themselves a $100,00 disservice, and probably the same for this year, and that’s really unfortunate,” Barry said.

Interview, Feb 4
Ken Barry, Wallarah 2 mine Project Manager,
Wyong Coal
Media statement, Feb 3
Dr Andrew Montague, Chief Executive
Central Coast Local Health District
Reporter: Sue Murray

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