The NSW Independent Planning Commission’s appalling decision to greenlight the damaging Maxwell Underground coal mine in the Hunter Valley is further evidence the authority now exists solely to rubber stamp controversial projects for the NSW Government and Planning Department.
The coal mine, located near Jerrys Plains, will compromise strategic farmland, will reduce base flow to the Hunter River, and will be responsible for about 337 million tonnes of CO2 emissions over its lifespan.
During the IPC hearing, commissioners heard from owners of world renowned horse studs and vineyards who feared the mine would have a severely disruptive impact on their businesses.
This is now the sixth mining project the IPC has waved through since raising the wrath of the NSW Minerals Council post Justice Preston’s decision that the Rocky Hill coal mine should not proceed on climate change grounds.
“The public have effectively lost faith in the IPC’s ability to assess controversial mining projects with an impartial eye since Planning Minister Rob Stokes kneecapped the authority following the rejection of the Bylong Valley mine,” said Lock the Gate Alliance NSW coordinator Georgina Woods.
“Merits appeal rights for those who oppose these projects are unavailable so without an independent umpire, people and industries that are affected by mining have effectively got no say and no protection.
“Clearly, Minister Stokes has stripped the IPC of its independence. It is now little more than an extension of the NSW Government and Planning Department, that rubber stamps anything that comes its way.
“We are calling for the reintroduction of merits appeal rights so the community can have a basic fair hearing in the Land and Environment Court about the impact of inappropriate coal and gas projects like Maxwell Underground.
“This latest decision further entrenches an industry with a highly uncertain future at the expense of other long-term industries.
“The Berejiklian-Barilaro Government is happy to scoop money from the Hunter in the form of mining royalties but has categorically failed to give us in return balanced land use laws and investment in our future beyond coal.
“The countries that buy our coal are pursuing zero-carbon futures, but the NSW Government is carrying on with business as normal, ignoring seismic changes in international energy markets and leaving the Hunter exposed.
“The people of the Hunter and other coal producing regions will bear the brunt of this government stupidity.”