OPINION

Coal no more: it's time to future-proof our communities

Coal no more: it's time to future-proof our communities

If I was to describe in one word, what the upper Hunter Valley needs to be in the future, the word would be innovative.

I say this because I have a long family connection to innovation in Australia.

My great-grandfather, Fred Mills, was mayor of Clermont in the Isaac region of Queensland for 40 years.

During his time in office, he supported the establishment of the first open-cut thermal coal mine in Australia, Blair Athol.

In 1930, Clermont was struggling through the Great Depression. Fred, like many others, saw open-cut mining as an innovative opportunity for local employment.

Fast-forward to 2021 and once again, regional towns like ours are struggling through financial hardship because of a global pandemic.

We must again look to new technology and innovation to future-proof our communities.

My cattle farm, located on the outskirts of Singleton - the heartland of New South Wales' coal mining industry - is one example of how innovation and technology is changing our way of life here.

As a fourth generation farmer to graze this land, I had to think about what the future would look like if I didn't take climate action.

The sooner we reach net-zero emissions, the sooner Australia benefits from the innovation and investment in new jobs and new industries.

Having the energy infrastructure in place to reach net zero emissions will also deliver cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy for households and businesses.

My property is powered by solar power and batteries, I use sustainable farming techniques, such as rotationally grazing our cattle, sheep and chickens to increase soil carbon sequestration, and we have planted native tree and vegetation shelterbelts to protect the animals, as well as storing as much carbon on my farm as possible.

For farmers, capturing renewable energy and sequestering carbon on our own lands is innovative, makes financial sense and should be widely adopted.

Yet, in my region of the Hunter Valley, we are seeing more proposed coal mining developments, the route of the proposed Hunter Gas Pipeline cuts through farmland and the state government is even considering opening up agricultural land for coal seam gas exploration and fracking.

This is a regressive approach, and we simply don't need this any more. For the residents like myself, who will be voting in the Upper Hunter by-election, these are all things to consider.

We have an opportunity to look to the future and show our support for the innovation that will ultimately change our way of life for the better.

We all have a responsibility and role to play in shaping our future.

Sophie Nichols is a young grazier from Singleton in New South Wales.

This story Coal no more: it's time to future-proof our communities first appeared on The Canberra Times.