Lock the Gate Alliance says new draft changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, released by the NSW Government today, may make it easier for coal mines to secure rapid approval in NSW and do not provide a single measure to protect farmland, water resources or the checks and balances needed to protect the public from bad mining decisions.
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW Coordinator, Georgina Woods said, “These draft changes could have been written by the mining industry itself. They provide no new protections for the public or the environment, while shortening the approval process for big mining companies to steamroll over communities.
“If you’re going to shorten decision times, then at least bring in laws to make sure the right decisions get made and that mines cannot be approved that will damage farmland, drinking water catchments and rural communities, and for pity’s sake, give communities the right to query mining approvals in court.”
The draft bill, released by the Planning Minister today for public comment until 10 March, proposes to do away with “reviews” held by the Planning and Assessment Commission and make substantial changes to the process, including changing the Commission’s name to the Independent Planning Commission and rolling the Gateway Panel into the Commission.
“Mining affected communities have made it abundantly clear that the lack of ability for members of the public to seek review of decisions to approve damaging coal mines is leading to environmental damage and social dislocation. Without the ability for communities to query approvals in court, the new Independent Planning Commission is not going to be accountable to the public and we will continue to see mining conflict consuming regional New South Wales.
“Though Commission reviews will be scrapped under the new laws, the Government is keeping the worst aspect of the reviews: the removal of third party appeal rights against mining approvals.
“Overall, the Baird Government is giving the mining industry what it wants while leaving communities to suffer under the same unfair rules they’ve already got.
“We urge the Planning Minister to take to Parliament planning law changes that restore balance. The future of rural communities and water resources depends on it,” Ms Woods said.