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After ICAC, Alliance urges rethink on NSW coal strategy and guidelines

The NSW Government's draft "Strategic Statement on Coal" and associated new guidelines on coal allocation have failed to implement ICAC recommendations designed specifically to prevent corruption in the coal exploration process, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.

The Alliance has outlined its views in a submission, as the period for public comments on the guidelines closed on Friday, and concluded that the NSW Government is letting down mining-affected communities by its failure to address major structural changes affecting the NSW coal industry.

In October 2013, the ICAC recommended that the Steering Committee now convened to oversee coal allocations convene an assessment panel, and: 

That the assessment panel provides a triple bottom line assessment of the environmental, social and economic factors of allocating an EL and reports its findings to the steering group.

“There is no triple-bottom line assessment in these guidelines, so one of the most crucial corruption-busting elements of the ICAC’s recommendations has to date been ignored.

"Until social and environmental assessments are brought upfront and protection areas established for water resources, farmland and communities, New South Wales will continue with its current unfair and unsustainable coal free-for-all, and miners will keep on gaming the system.

"ICAC also recommended that the coal allocation process should align with the goals of the NSW 2021 State Plan, but again the NSW Government has fallen short.

"They haven't delivered quality regional plans or protection of water resources and they haven't reformed the planning process or handed decision-making powers back to communities as required by the State Plan. They won't bust coal corruption with this effort.

“Perhaps the greatest failure of the 'Strategic Statement on Coal' is that it ignores the major challenges now confronting coal-affected regions, like land and water conflict, the exhaustion of resources and slumping coal demand.

"The fact is that you can’t develop a robust coal strategy without opening it up to the communities that are most affected. There is nothing strategic about ignoring the people who have to live with coal mining every day or ignoring the rapid changes now occurring in energy markets.

"That's why we need root and branch reform as part of the Government's response to the ICAC's findings, and why we're challenging Premier Baird and his Government to hold a series of public forums in coal affected regions to ask the community what they want and prepare for a future where coal is no longer king," she said.

Lock the Gate's submission to the coal allocation guidelines and Strategic Statement on Coal is available here.

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