The Lock the Gate Alliance has welcomed the Independent Commission Against Corruption's recommendation to cancel two coal exploration leases in the Hunter Valley and has called on the Premier to act immediately on this and other recommendations of the ICAC.
“People in Bylong and Jerrys Plains will breathe easier once the Mt Penny and Doyles Creek exploration leases have been scrapped”, said the Alliance's Hunter region coordinator, Steve Phillips. “They should never have been issued in the first place.”
Bryan Chapman, whose property is inside the corrupt Doyles Creek lease, said: “If the NSW Government reissues the corrupt coal leases under different names, with different mining companies, the nightmare for local communities will just begin all over again. We deserve the certainty of ongoing protection from coal mining projects. Every community in NSW deserves a fairer, more transparent system than the one we have now.”
The Commission's report from October this year stated that the corrupt conduct uncovered by its inquiries "cannot simply be put down to a rogue Minister."
Mr Phillips said, "It is the system that is broken, and the Commission made 26 recommendations for root-and-branch reform, including assessment of the social, economic, and environmental impacts of mining before a coal exploration lease is granted over a new area.”
“Under the current rules, there is no transparency, no public consultation, and no assessment of impacts when an exploration lease is placed over a new area. Yet both mining companies and the Government regard an exploration lease as a pathway to mining. By the time local communities are consulted, or the impacts are assessed, mining companies have built an expectation that their mining project should be given the go-ahead, regardless of the costs to the public interest, and the community."
“These systemic problems won't be fixed by cancelling two leases. Barry O'Farrell needs to adopt all of the ICAC's recommendations, and completely overhaul the management of coal exploration in NSW.”
“The O'Farrell Government was elected on a promise to restore balance to mining assessment in NSW, and protect communities, waterways, agriculture, and the environment. This is his moment to deliver that promise,” said Phillips.
Yesterday the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association referred the NSW Planning Department, and its Minister Brad Hazzard, to the ICAC over its handling of Rio Tinto's proposed Warkworth coal mine in the Hunter Valley.