Noel Wieck, 70, is a farmer whose family has owned 'Chelmonte' farm near the town of Acland for almost a century. The national award-winning dairy farm is located about 4 kilometres west of New Acland Coal's Stage 2 open-cut coal mine.
If a mine expansion is allowed to go ahead, the mine will be cheek to jowl with the family home 'Chelmonte' (2.5 kilometres away from the expanded mine) as well as his adjoining farm, 'The Park' (which would sit a mere 3 kilometres west of the mine).
Noel now lives on The Park with his wife, Fay, while his eldest son, Grant (pictured, below), wife Kylie and their five children have taken over the family home at Chelmonte (all pictured, above).
"This is an excellent property and you don't walk away from a place like this in a hurry," says Noel, who alongside more than 30 other community objectors is opposing the expansion in Queensland's Land Court (read more of their stories). The hearing starts 7 March 2016.
Noel fears the New Acland coal mine expansion will destroy his farming business, his community and force his family to leave the land, jeopardising a connection built up over a century.
“I see this project as being short-term greed for long-term pain for future generations,” Noel said.
“We were promised by political parties that the mine expansion would not happen, and it was a huge weight off our shoulders knowing it wasn’t an issue anymore. Now the mine expansion is back on the agenda and it’s moving closer.
"It is something (the mine) that is always at the forefront of my mind and the whole time we just cannot seem to get away from it."
In March 2012 the incoming Queensland LNP Government announced it did not support Stage 3 because of its potential impacts in the area. But just one year later, after NAC made modifications to the proposal, the very same government changed its mind.
“This whole project is compromising everything I believe in... it is ruining good agricultural country,” Noel says.
Alongside other objectors, key impacts Noel fears from the expansion include the disturbance of over 1,361 hectares (13.61km2) of strategic cropping land ; potential drop in groundwater levels of up to 47 metres on the site and one metre or more across a 21 kilometre-wide area around the site; and the further degradation of air and noise quality in the area.
The 1,361 hectare area is part of the famous Darling Downs region, which contributes to one quarter of Queensland’s agricultural production and according to the Queensland State Government has Australia’s largest deposit of rich agricultural soils.
“High quality cropping land is a priceless sustainable natural resource,” Noel says, adding: “no argument about economic benefit or jobs ... can be allowed to deprive future generations for centuries to come, of their heritage and birthright.
“The land impacted by the mine is the best agricultural land in the area… there will be a definite impact on future generations.”
Noel, with 55 years of farming experience under his belt, doesn’t believe New Acland can fully rehabilitate the land to original quality after use.
“High value cropping land is a finite resource and cannot be manufactured. Once it is destroyed it is lost forever.
“The mine will remove the productive heart from the land and transform it into one big grass paddock between Oakey and Rosalie Plains.”
But it’s not just the land Stage 3 will take that will be impacted. Like many other farmers in the area, Noel is deeply concerned that the drawdown of groundwater aquifers might damage his farm’s source of water and signal the end of his business.
“The EIS (Economic Impact Statement) states that NAC (New Acland Coal) would make good if landholders' bores were to fail due to mining activity, [meaning] our valuable dairy farming business would be totally dependent on an external source of drinking water for the 500 head of cattle we normally carry.”
Noel says the quality of land and groundwater on his property is a main reason why his family’s dairy farm has long been recognised as one of the highest quality milk producers in the whole of Australia. The family’s bores are in the Basalt aquifer.
“The quality of our dairy produce is attributable to the physical characteristics of our property, and the basalt character of the country.
“Thousands of hectares on adjoining properties who all have livestock enterprises might encounter permanent damage to their underground water supplies.”
Noel is deeply concerned that precious groundwater supplies needed to run the Wiecks' farm will be damaged or lost forever. This casts a shadow over the future of Noel’s family on the farm.
“I might be getting to the end of my working life, and some might say I can move out and move away, but my grandson is nine years old now and we would want nothing more than to pass the property on to him.
“We are saddened that our long standing commercial property may not be viable for future generations of our family.”
Noel is also worried that coal dust will contaminate the water supply and feed for cattle and that the noise and dust from blasting will damage his family’s health. He grieves for what has happened to a community he has been a part of for his 70 years.
“The mine will certainly have an effect on the productive capacity of the district," says Noel.
“Several families who had lived in the area for several generations sold their properties because they were in the mining lease area and were going to be mined as part of the project.This means that their extensive experience and knowledge of the area has been lost.
“Although portrayed as a benefit, the mine has negatively impacted many in the community. When you take the community out of the district there will be irreversible effects.”
 The Queensland State Government identifies strategic cropping land as “land that is, or is likely to be, highly suitable for cropping because of a combination of the land's soil, climate and landscape features”. Source: https://www.dnrm.qld.gov.au/land/accessing-using-land/strategic-cropping-land