Farmers from North West NSW have slammed the actions of Planning Minister Anthony Roberts after he flaunted established planning processes in favour of a pipeline company, which could carry gas from the Santos Narrabri CSG project.
The Hunter Queensland Gas Pipeline was approved over ten years ago but did not commence. In November the company applied for an extension for another five years, but the approval lapsed on February 11th this year without an extension being granted.
However, on the very last day before the caretaker period commenced ahead of the NSW election, Minister Roberts made a new regulation which appears specifically designed to extend the lapsed deadline on the pipeline by 12 months.
Scott McCalman, a farmer near Mullaley said, “Anthony Roberts has flaunted the proper NSW planning process, changing the rules for the convenience of the CSG industry and leaving farmers and landholders in agonising limbo.
“Roberts has abused his power and shown contempt for the public and the farmers of North West NSW by backdating this extension after it had already lapsed."
Last year, over one hundred objections were lodged against the proposal to extend the approval.
Submitters argued that the ten year deadline for approved projects was important to provide certainty to local communities and currency to the planning process.
“The effect of this dodgy extension for a CSG pipeline is to extend uncertainty for landholders along the pipeline route, bending and making new rules for the benefit of the proponent, the Hunter Gas Pipeline Pty Ltd,” Mr McCalman said.
“This pipeline has been directly linked to the proposed Santos Narrabri CSG project that farmers in North West NSW have fought tooth and nail against for nine years.
“Coal seam gas puts our precious groundwater at risk and to see the NSW Government bending the rules for a gas company when we’re at our wits end with the threat of CSG is a real kick in the teeth."
The new Regulation is specifically for “transitional Part 3A projects that have been designated as state significant infrastructure” as the Hunter Gas pipeline is, and specifically contains a retrospective provision applying the extension to development approvals that have already lapsed.