Wednesday 27 November 2013


The NSW Government's controversial Planning Bill ( last discussed on the CVCC blog on 6 November in New Planning Laws before NSW Parliament ) was amended substantially by the Legislative Council (the Upper House of the NSW Parliament) on 26 November.

The changes included:
  • Deletion of Code Assessment from the Bill. This means that those NSW citizens who were being disempowered by this provision will retain their right to have a say on development in their neighbourhoods.
  • Amendments relating to affordable housing for new developments.
  • Removal of the controversial provisions of the Mining SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy) which the Government recently added to the SEPP. There were serious concerns that these recent amendments (which made economic factors the principle consideration in the approvals process) made new coal mines almost impossible to refuse. (The change to the Mining SEPP was the subject of the CVCC post Proposed Changes to NSW Mining  on 25 August)
Of course, the amended Bill will have to return to the Legislative Assembly (the Lower House) and be passed there before it becomes law.

However, even if this happens,  there are still very serious deficiencies in the legislation as Corinne Fisher from the Better Planning Network points out.

"There has been very little change to the Minister's wide discretion that the Independent Commission Against Corruption stated was a corruption risk.  The amendment to restore the rights of objectors to appeal also failed.  That amendment would have been a major corruption safeguard," Ms Fisher said.

"The system will still be top down planning where high order strategic plans will govern what happens at local level.

"We are still stuck with Strategic Compatibility Certificates (SCC) that essentially allow Local Plans to be ignored so that prohibited development can occur whenever a developer can convince the Government  that it is consistent with a higher order strategic plan.  There is  no merit assessment when an SCC is issued," she said.

Another major concern is the exclusion of ecologically sustainable development as a major principle in planning decisions.  This has been replaced in the new  legislation by "sustainable development" which according to the Minister for Planning, Brad Hazzard, "balances" the needs of the environment with social and economic outcomes. This weakening of consideration for the environment has been a feature of Premier Barry O'Farrell's Coalition Government just as his Government's reframing of the state's planning laws has focused on the promotion of the interests of the development industry to the detriment of the interests of local communities.

Months ago the critics of the proposed new planning system called for it to be withdrawn and re-written.  The extensive community criticism led to some minor changes before the Government brought the Bill to Parliament.  Critics still believe that the Bill needs to be withdrawn and re-written  to ensure that NSW has an effective, fair and transparent planning system in the future.

Friday 22 November 2013


Those who value our NSW National Parks are relieved at the State Government’s rejection of a parliamentary inquiry's recommendation that more than one million hectares of the northern NSW National Parks estate be opened up to logging. 

Background to the Recommendation
 In 2012 General Purpose Standing Committee No 5,  a committee of the NSW Legislative Council (the state’s upper house), held an inquiry into the management of public lands in NSW. This Inquiry was at the instigation of the Shooters and Fishers Party (which has two members in the NSW Parliament) and Liberal/National Party members of the committee.  According to the Committee Chair, the Shooters and Fishers Party's Robert Brown, the inquiry was to "thoroughly review how public and private land is acquired and converted into conservation land, and the effectiveness of public land management practices dealing with fire hazards, weeds and pests, and issues such as public access and land use."
It was quite obvious that the inquiry was motivated by a desire to attack national parks and the reasons for their existence and  to question the decision-making process in the creation of national parks in the  previous decade or so.     
The Committee's Report  which is available on the Inquiry website  was published in May 2013 and the Government had until this month to respond to the report and its recommendations.
The Recommendation to Log National Parks

Recommendation 10 of the Report:

That the NSW Government immediately identify appropriate reserved areas for release to meet the levels of wood supply needed to sustain the timber industry, and that the NSW Government take priority action to release these areas, if necessary by a ‘tenure swap’ between national park estate and State forests. In particular, urgent action is required for the timber industry in the Pilliga region.
This recommendation was the result of the anti-environment and anti-National Parks stance of the  committee's conservative majority as well as the extensive lobbying by the NSW Forest Products Association (FPA).  The FPA used the Inquiry to publicise its concerns about the impending supply shortfall from the state’s public native forests in the north of the state.  This shortfall is the inevitable result of years of over-commitment of timber resources in our state forests by the state’s forest bureaucracy.

The NSW Government Response
In its official response on 19 November the NSW Government rejected the call for logging in National Parks.

The peak North Coast conservation body, the North Coast Environment Council (NCEC), welcomed the Government’s  decision.

 “There is little doubt that the Government has seen the support and love that National Parks enjoy from a wide spectrum of the community.  There has been overwhelming opposition to its decision to allow hunting in National Parks.  Logging was clearly a bridge too far,” said NCEC President Susie Russell.

While welcoming the decision, North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh has called on the Government to reduce logging quotas to a sustainable level so that the hardwood sawlog industry has a future in our area.

“The Government must come clean with the public by releasing last year’s timber review and acting urgently to stop the gross over-logging of publicly owned lands,” Mr Pugh said.

Sunday 10 November 2013

WE DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN A GASFIELD - Clarence Valley Woman Writes to Prime Minister Abbott

Lynette Eggins, a Clarence Valley resident, emailed the letter below to Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister on 5 November.

Dear Prime Minister Abbott

I was pleased to hear that you have taken the time to meet with Debbie Orr from Tara in Queensland concerning the impact the gas mining invasion in Queensland has had on her family and community. It is with disgust and disbelief that we read and hear about the treatment of our fellow Australians.

As I'm sure you are aware, gas mining companies propose to invade the Northern Rivers of NSW, an area of scenic beauty and farm land, an area that we live in for the peace, tranquility and natural richness it has to offer to all Australians and overseas visitors.

It is unacceptable to us that we become like Ms Orr and the many other similarly affected residents of Queensland. The Northern Rivers is very densely populated, unlike much of the gasfield areas of our northern neighbour state. If the industry goes ahead, how does your government propose to deal with the health and environmental impacts of such an invasive industry on our close communities?

The introduction of the 2km exclusion zone is quite frankly ludicrous. How can it be that some residents of our country are being offered protection and yet others will become collateral damage? How can the Government openly discriminate against its own constituents?

I am sure government bureaucrats have no idea of the impacts such an industry would have on the Northern Rivers. For example:  we often have severe rain events. This alone is enough to create an environmental disaster. With the massive maze of creeks and river systems running off the mountains the majority of the country is underwater at these times. What will happen with the chemicals, waste water and drilling fluids when it flows away with the flood water? Will we at other times, have the waste water sprayed on our roads and crops and injected into our water supply and rivers as is happening in Queensland?

The largest industry we have is tourism - who wants to come and look at gasfields? Can you imagine the impact such a toxic industry will have on tourism and our many sustainable industries such as the fisheries and farming?

Metgasco, one of the gas mining companies with a PEL over our area, has breached safety and environmental regulations numerous times, and they are only in the exploration stage. How can they possibly manage a gas field safely ?

We do not want to live in an industrialised landscape; we do not need the gas and the government knows it (there is enough gas in Bass Strait to serve Australia for millennia - BHP have stated this)

We are an educated population; we have done our research; we know the majority of the gas is for export and we know the long term toxic affects of the gas industry. Please don't treat us as fools.

We have been surveying our residents door to door, neighbour to neighbour, and an overwhelming majority of people do not want to live in gasfields. It is time for the Government to listen to its people – mining companies have no social licence to operate in the Northern Rivers, or elsewhere in NSW for that matter.

The people of the Northern Rivers will not sit back quietly and watch our land, water, health and sustainable industries be impacted by this invasive toxic industry.

Mr Abbott, will you be remembered as the Prime Minister who listened to and stood up for his people? Or the Prime Minister who allowed mining companies and government bureaucracy to force a toxic invasive industry on his constituents? The power is in your hands Mr Abbott.

I would be pleased if you would supply answers to my questions at your earliest possible convenience.

Yours sincerely

Lynette Eggins, mother, grandmother, business woman and resident of Australia, the lucky country - or is it?

Wednesday 6 November 2013


In a post on 19 June the CVCC reported on the NSW Government's drastic agenda for a new planning system in NSW.  ( See  Open slather for developers in NSW )

In the months since the Government released its White Paper and draft legislation there has been a very determined community campaign led by the Better Planning Network and other community groups such as the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) to alert the general community to the dangers of the Government plans.  While this has led to the Government making some changes to its legislation, it has still not addressed major areas of concern. In essence the new system continues to favour developers and industry at the expense of the general community and the environment.

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the peak conservation body in the state, points to some of the major problems:

  • The legislation continues to provide for fast-track approval of ‘code assessable’ development, without community consultation or merit based environmental assessment.
  • Government has announced that code assessment will be limited to ‘growth areas’, but there are no provisions in the legislation to give effect to this commitment.
  • The ‘one stop shop’ provisions of the legislation concentrate unprecedented and excessive power in the Department of Planning, by giving the Director-General the power to override the advice of expert agencies, including the EPA and Office of Environment and Heritage.
  • The legislation provides multiple mechanisms for developers to override local plans, including rezoning applications, rezoning appeals, strategic compatibility certificates and a broad power for the Minister to amend local plans.  
  • The legislation does not make reference to the established principles of ecologically sustainable development, including the precautionary principle.     

To see the legislation go to the NSW Parliament website  -  Planning Legislation .

The revised legislation was passed by the Legislative Assembly (the lower house), which is controlled by the Liberal-National Party Government, on 30 October. Before it can become law it also has to be passed by the upper house, the Legislative Council.  As the Government does not have a majority in the Legislative Council, it is possible that the Bill may be rejected there if a majority of Councillors are persuaded to reject them.  The legislaton will be introduced and debated in the Legislative Council any time from 12 November onwards.

Groups concerned about the Bill are encouraging people to contact non-government members of the Legislative Council to urge them to vote against the legislation.  The Better Planning Network website has information on how to contact Legislative Council members to urge them to vote against this  legislation.