Rural life in the Upper Hunter Region of NSW is threatened by the mining and burning of coal and coal seam gas extraction. Extensive open-cut mining is a serious threat to productive rural enterprises between Singleton and Muswellbrook, while mining and gas extraction is expanding into communities on the Liverpool Plains and around Gloucester.
The marginalisation of rural life has economic, environmental and sociocultural dimensions. Economically, the marginalisation of rural life refers to declining food production, threatened rural industries such as thoroughbred breeding and viticulture, and to the loss of commercial services in rural towns.
Environmental damage includes air and water pollution, biodiversity loss, destruction of aquifers and waterways, and the loss of fertile agricultural land. Socio-cultural impacts include threats to human health, rising income inequality, depopulation of villages, and damage to the fabric of rural communities from mining incursion.
The article examines the competing scripts employed in land use contests and how communities are using new and reflexive constructions of 'the rural' that integrate traditional identity, discourses of sustainability and the re-centring of rural life. This analysis illuminates the current situation of marginalisation and the possible future of rural life in the Upper Hunter and surrounding areas.