Sunday 25 August 2013


The NSW Government is proposing to amend the State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP) dealing with mining, petroleum production and extractive industries.
This appears to have been in response to the recent court victory of the Hunter Valley's Bulga community which opposed the expansion of an open-cut coal mine by mining giant Rio Tinto.

The decision in favour of the Bulga community is being challenged in court by both the mining company and the Minister for Planning, Brad Hazzard.  Until the appeal is decided, the  Bulga community will have a further wait to learn if their community is to be saved from the open cut mine expansion.

The legislative changes, which will prevent another Bulga-type legal challenge, are in amendments to the State Environment Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries). The proposed changes were recently on public exhibition – for a mere fortnight (29 July – 12 August). The brief exhibition period indicates that the Government was not particularly interested in having extensive input from the general community - and it is the general community which is likely to suffer if the proposed amendment is legislated.

Under the proposed changes the “significance” of the “resource” to the economy becomes the central consideration in the approvals process.  This will mean that other factors of importance to the general community – the people the government is supposed to represent – will be downgraded.  Impacts on local communities’ amenity, their health and the natural environment will be relegated to minor considerations.

It also suggests that the NSW Government's measures to placate those in the community who are concerned about gas mining (CSG and other forms of gas mining) may be rendered null and void by this change.  For example will this change over-ride the decision to have a two kilometre buffer zone between CSG wells and residential areas?

The general community throughout NSW has already put the government on notice about its cosiness with the mining industry.  In the NSW Northern Rivers this has been notable in relation to coal seam gas mining.  The proposal to amend the mining SEPP seems to indicate that the government is either unaware of or indifferent to what the community expects in relation to an even-handed and fair approach to mining development proposals.