NSW Labor attacks Coaltion, and Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen, over lack of air pollution action in Upper Hunter

GOVERNMENT DUST UP: Mine blowing off a Hunter mine site in September 2019. Photo credit: Marina Neil.
GOVERNMENT DUST UP: Mine blowing off a Hunter mine site in September 2019. Photo credit: Marina Neil.

FOR anyone who has looked outside over the past few weeks, it would be impossible to argue that air quality is up to standard.

The dozens of fires that have been, and still are, ravaging much of the state have had a significant impact on this - however alarm bells were ringing long before that.

The Upper Hunter has recorded 655 air quality alerts so far this year.

And, now, NSW Labor is accusing the Coalition, and more specifically Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen, of not taking enough action.

"Local National MP Michael Johnsen has been completely absent on the issue and, despite his community's growing concerns, he's done nothing to address it," Labor leader Jodi McKay said.

"A community meeting was held on Monday night where local doctor Bob Vickers said that during spring, before the impact of bushfire smoke, spikes of 600 PM10 levels at sites in Singleton were recorded.

"Anything above 33 PM10 is breaking national standards."

Dr Vickers recently stated that nearly 90 per cent of PM10 pollution in the region comes from open cut mining.

However, he was then called out on Twitter by Mr Johnsen for making claims "without providing any proof".

But, not only does that proof exist, it was in a published in an NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) document regarding the Upper Hunter back in 2013.

The topic gained statewide attention on Thursday, as Ms McKay questioned Premier Gladys Berejiklian over the government's efforts to address pollution.

In her response, which featured a dig at Labor for supposedly only just raising the issue, she said her government had strengthened the EPA's ability to monitor and respond to air quality concerns.

But, Ms McKay is still adamant not enough is being done and stated there was a greater need for engagement with locals to properly deal with the issue.

"Mining underpins the local economy, however community health concerns are serious and valid and their concerns cannot be ignored," she said.

"The government should be listening to the local community and taking every action to protect residents from dangerous pollution."

A forum regarding air quality took place in Singleton this week and another is being hosted at the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music in Muswellbrook on Tuesday, November 26.

Mr Johnsen admitted he had a prior commitment and will not attend.

He was also contacted for a response but declined to make comment.