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After Rix’s Creek bungle, hasty review must put Hunter people first

Lock the Gate Alliance has called for more details to be released of a review of the Independent Planning Commission announced hastily late on Friday by the Planning Minister, and has expressed frustration that the broader community in the Hunter region are not being treated seriously as stakeholders in decisions about coal mines.

The Commission yesterday evening dramatically withdrew an approval it had granted to the Rix’s Creek coal mine just hours earlier, because the decision had been published before the closure of a deadline for public comment which may have created a legal error.

Late last night, the Commission published a statement welcoming a review into its processes announced by the Minister for Planning, though no announcement from the Minister has been made publicly available.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “The manner in which this review has been announced, as an exclusive to a Sydney-based newspaper, shows how the planning system is ignoring the people of the Hunter.

"The Commission overturned its decision on the Rix’s Creek mine yesterday because of a mistake in the process around public consultation. However, it is clear they intend to approve this mine as soon as possible, so they might as well have left their decision on Friday to stand.

"No public good is served by phony community consultation processes that have foregone conclusions and no one seriously expects the Commission’s decision to be influenced in any way by submissions made in the next week. It’s obvious that the expansion of Rix’s Creek will be approved and air quality in Singleton will deteriorate as a result.

“There are 300 people working at Rix’s Creek mine who have been hanging on this decision and deserve respect and certainty, but there are thousands more who live in Singleton Shire and are breathing damaging levels of particle pollution because of the scale of open cut coal mining that has been approved by Sydney-based decision makers in the last ten years.

"The Independent Planning Commission is under a huge amount of pressure and appears to us have a workload that is far greater than its capacities.

"The Commission must navigate diabolical land use and social conflicts caused by irresponsible and narrow planning policies that leaving the Hunter Valley with a legacy pollution and division.

"We are calling for the terms of reference of the IPC review to be released immediately and we are appealing to the Planning Minister to come to the Hunter region and meet local people to hear about the damage that is being done to our health, water resources and social fabric.

"We are caught between neglect from Ministers in Sydney and a deliberate well-funded attack campaign from multi-national mining giants who will not accept any limits whatsoever to their impacts, no matter how bad the outcomes for Hunter communities,” she said.


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