Cows & Coal—the Battle for Bulga

Vahid Roser loves Bulga, it's home. His family have been proud Bulga locals for seven generations.

They came as farmer-settlers after finding the area to have rich soils and climate advantageous for growing fruit. The Roser family's grapes were of such prestige they were chosen to be on the Queen's table during her visit to Sydney many years ago.

"It was a big achievement for them as farmers," said Vahid.

Bulga is home to a rich local heritage, the tiny church and cemetery, where generations of Vahid's family are buried, was established in 1856.

Vahid Roser in the cemetery at Bulga.

Vahid Roser in the cemetery at Bulga.

Stretching back even further is the culture and connection of the Wonnarua traditional custodians whose sacred sites are found across the region.

The walk up to Baiame Cave at Milbrodale in the Hunter Valley.

The walk up to Baiame Cave at Milbrodale in the Hunter Valley.

Indigenous rock art at Baiame Cave.

Indigenous rock art at Baiame Cave.

In recent years the Bulga community has born witness to transformation in the region as open-cut coal mines creep closer than ever before.

"When you look to your left you see the ever extending Wollemi National Park which seems to go forever and you slowly turn and you see the wonderful inlet and how lush and green it is," said Vahid, looking out over Bulga from a rocky outcrop on his family's farm.

"Keep turning and you hit the mines and it’s what you see about five times higher than the tree line, so they're pretty prominent. You can see them easily and it’s just one big arc around the inlet, like it's closing in on it," he said.

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Multinational mining company Rio Tinto is seeking approval from the NSW Government to expand its open-cut coal mining operation near the village of Bulga.

"I heard that they were coming 3 kilometres within Bulga, but I've heard again that they want to come even closer to within 500 metres which is pretty much the whole of Wallaby Scrub and the bushland… so there won’t be anything left," said Vahid.

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For Vahid, the money to be made working in the mines is simply not worth it, "They can drive trucks four days a week and get 150k a year. It is a big incentive but what's your life? Your life is sitting in a truck, driving through breathing in the dust. Who wants that?"

"Everyone's on big money and they're missing the point of life, I think, they're not seeing the mountains for what they are," he said.

Vahid sees a different future for Bulga, one that doesn't involve the historic village being swallowed up by a mine pit and its people choked by coal dust. To celebrate his community and to promote the beauty of the region, Vahid is using his skills as a musician to host the inaugural Bulga Beats festival.

"It's always been a dream for me. I'm a musician and I'm starting a music festival which I'm so happy about.

"We'll be using everything we have here… the mountains, the church, the hall for music and markets and arts. I just want to promote us for what we have.

"Everybody loves music and in a location like this with the mountains backdrop it would be amazing. And if it becomes a yearly thing, then how many people will come to Bulga and know it for what it is?"

Valid and his community aren't giving in, they are fighting for the future of Bulga.

Kate