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. 

Thursday 22 August 2013


Many community members and community organisations have  been concerned for months about the NSW Government's proposals for a new planning system for the state.  An earlier CVCC post outlined  some of these problems. ("Open slather for developers in NSW" - CVCC post of 1 June 2013.)

The campaign of those concerned about the NSW Government's proposed new planning system  has been strengthened by admissions from the state's chief planning bureaucrat, Planning and Infrastructure Director-General Sam Haddad.

According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald of 13th August Mr Haddad confessed that the proposed new laws had "gone further than the government intended."

He also conceded department staff may have unintentionally spread ''inaccurate or misleading information'' about the changes, touted as the biggest overhaul of the state's planning system in more than 30 years.

He was responding to a formal complaint from the Better Planning Network community group, which claimed statements by department officials at public forums that the new laws would not reduce ''judicial review rights'' - residents' ability to appeal planning decisions where the law may have been breached - were wrong.  (The Sydney Morning Herald )

The Better Planning Network (BPN) has been campaigning vigorously for many months to have the planning system that replaces the current system made responsive to the needs of the general community rather than just the development industry and the Government.  The Government's Planning White Paper and its Draft Planning Bill, which were on public exhibition until recently, centralised planning in the hands of the planning minister and his agents, favoured the development industry, disempowered the general community and made economic development of over-riding importance, downgrading  local community concerns and impacts on the natural environment.

Now that the Director-General of Planning has conceded that there are problems with the planning proposals, the BPN has called on the Premier of NSW, Barry O'Farrell, to withdraw the bill. 

If you have concerns about the government's proposed planning system, you could sign the BPN's online Petition .

Alternatively, you could email or write to Barry O'Farrell, the Premier of NSW, urging him to withdraw the bill which is likely to come before parliament within three weeks, unless much more pressure is put on the Government to discard the current bill and start again.  The Premier's email address is:

His postal address is:  

Hon. Barry O'Farrell
Premier of NSW.
GPO Box 5341

Lobby Day Earlier This Week           Photo Source:  BPN