Take a drive through Bungonia and some may be forgiven that little happens in the village 22km east of Goulburn.
Vast rural properties stretching back generations, smaller ones favoured by lifestyle seekers, a central core of old buildings, churches, a park and community hall greet visitors.
But behind the scenes, a force has rallied in the past five months against a company's plans to establish a waste to energy facility on rural land just a short distance from the village.
An action group, a retired lawyer, scientists and passionate community members united to fight off Jerrara Power's state significant proposal for the $600 million plant at 974 Jerrara Road.
The plant would have incinerated up to 330,000 tonnes of Sydney's waste annually and generated 30 megawatts of electricity.
Goulburn Mulwaree Council and Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman backed residents and lobbied Ministers. On Friday, the company withdrew the application. It came after the state government announced its Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan. The document restricts the facilities to four precincts in NSW, including the southern Goulburn Mulwaree area, around Veolia's precinct.
Jerrara Action Group member Leisha Cox-Barlow was still absorbing the news on Monday.
"I think they (the company) absolutely underestimated us," the schoolteacher said.
"I think of it as someone who's not from here, finds 200 acres, thinks it's a sleepy town with less than 400 people and that no-one will care. I don't think they expected what they got."
Within days of hearing of the plan, a community information group chat group had 100 members. It quickly morphed into the Jerrara Action Group and ultimately embraced people further afield.
Members met, pre-COVID-19 restrictions, and formed a strategy. Retired lawyer and Southern Highlands Progress Association Charles Mendel soon loaned his expertise to the group and the council's opposition arguments to the state government.
Karl Johnson chipped in with his public health expertise, Clinton Raditch and Alan Brady with their scientific knowledge, Kate Leitch loaned her administration skills and the Bungonia Progress Association became involved.
Bungonia Action for Clean Air also formed. There were many more, including cartoonist Allan Moore who lightened the moment with his sketches.
"People sent hundreds of emails and letters (to the council and state government). Everyone contributed, jumped on board and gave what they could," Mrs Cox-Barlow said.
The notion that people in Bungonia "didn't matter" as much as those who had opposed a similar plant at Eastern Creek sparked her anger.
Raised in Campbelltown, she moved to Marulan in 2001. Three years ago Mrs Cox-Barlow, her husband and three children moved to a Jerrara Road, Bungonia property. The waste to energy plant would have been just 500 metres away.
"My biggest (issue) was as a mum with three kids," Mrs Cox-Barlow said.
"We moved here for the larger property and the lifestyle and I wasn't going to sit back and let them (Jerrara Power) do this...I thought if it wasn't good enough for my family, there must be others."
There were others and soon the council was also fighting the plant's permissability on "pristine" rural land. It also pushed the state government to develop a firm policy on waste to energy plants before it issued any more state environmental requirements (SEARS).
Mrs Cox-Barlow said that up until the council's involvement, the community felt that neither Jerrara Power or state planners cared about "the little people."
But Mayor Bob Kirk, general manager Warwick Bennett met several times with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, challenging its treatment of the proposal. They and Mrs Tuckerman argued their case with Minister Rob Stokes, most recently within the past fortnight.
Cr Kirk said the community's "well-founded" arguments were crucial. These included concerns about health, water, environmental and agricultural land impacts, as well as proximity to the national park.
He described Friday's announcement as a good outcome for Bungonia and district and believed the strength of community opposition made a difference.
"Now we move on to the next front and that is Tarago," he said, referring to the declared precinct.
He was pleased the government had taken notice but also added that waste to energy plants should be only be located in appropriately zoned areas.
The mayor rejected criticism from some Tarago voices that the council had "traded off" Bungonia for that area. He told The Post that while Veolia's proposed waste to energy plant was in an industrial zone, the council would be scrutinising it just as thoroughly once more information became available.
Meantime, Bungonia Progress Association president Jenni Neumann said everyone was very pleased and relieved by the project's withdrawal.
"The impact of the policy change is rippling through the community. There has been a lot of anxiety," she said.
"I think (the effort) says what an exceptionally strong community we have...It's been an extraordinarily broad effort by so many people from all walks of life."
She thanked everyone involved, including the council and Mrs Tuckerman.
The Association and Bungonia action groups are now supporting Tarago in its fight against Veolia's proposal.
But for now, residents are looking forward to a celebration when COVID restrictions are lifted.
"The good thing we got out of it was that people certainly know their neighbours," Mrs Cox-Barlow said.
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