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NSW Planning Bill 2013

Below are a number of media releases and letters from Lock The Gate, NSW Planning & Infrastructure Director-General Sam Haddad and ICAC concerning the NSW Planning Bill 2013

This media release from LockTheGate is published in full

NSW Planning Bill Breaks Promises, Encourages Mining Corruption


November 12, 2013 - LockTheGate - The Lock the Gate Alliance says the controversial new Planning Bill being rushed through parliament by the Government this week breaches promises made before the election and will make corruption more likely, not less.  The Alliance has called for a radical overhaul of the Bill.

The Planning Bill 2013 is scheduled for debate in the NSW Legislative Council this week.  Lock the Gate has written to members of the NSW Upper House outlining the major failings of the Bill, which include locking the community out from access to the court system and undermining protections for precious water resources.

Lock the Gate National Coordinator, Phil Laird, said, “This Government came to power promising to hand back control of planning to the community, but this Bill reverses that commitment.

"Local Councils will have no legal role when it comes to the approval of major coal and gas projects if this Bill goes ahead, which will instead remain solely in the hands of the Minister and a few unelected officials. 

“The ICAC has exposed the sordid evidence of what can happen when Ministers and bureaucrats have too much power, and mining proponents wield too much influence. The government made a compact with the people of NSW that they would ensure this could never happen again.

"However, in an extraordinary betrayal of that promise, this Bill prohibits most communities from challenging mining developments in court, and threatens to deepen land-use conflict in regional NSW.

"The Bill also reverses promises the NSW Government made in relation to managing our precious water resources.  It removes the requirement for major coal and gas developments to obtain an approval from the NSW Office of Water prior to putting water resources at risk.

“We’re calling on the members of the Legislative Council to hold the Government to its election promises.  This Bill needs to be radically overhauled if we are to restore balance and protect our water resources and the livelihoods of farming families threatened by mining.

"All we're asking is for Barry O'Farrell to deliver on the promises that he made to the people of NSW before the last election.  He said he'd resign if he didn't deliver on those promises, and if this Bill isn't overhauled, then he should do just that" Mr Laird said.

Lock The Gate Alliance Letter to MPs available on request.
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The following media release from NSW Planning & Infrastructure Director-General Sam Haddad is published in full (reproduced from their website)

The Director-General's letter to Lock the Gate Alliance about the Planning Bill

In a media release issued this week, Lock the Gate raised a number of concerns about the new planning system

15 Nov 2013 - The department's Director-General Sam Haddad has written to the Lock the Gate Alliance in response to a number of issues the group raised about the new planning system in a media release this week.

Read the Director-General's letter

Here is how the new planning system will address the issues which have been raised:

On major project approval and appeal rights

There are no changes proposed to the way that major projects, such as coal mines and gas fields, are assessed in the new planning system.

Local councils and communities will continue to be consulted when major mining projects are assessed. Independent experts in the Planning Assessment Commission will continue to determine most major mining projects in NSW under delegation from the Minister.

No changes are proposed to limit existing community appeal rights for decisions about potentially high-risk development that may have significant environmental impacts (such as coal mines and gasfields).

On community participation

Since coming to office, the Government has acted consistently to return planning powers to the community.

It repealed the Part 3A system and increased council powers to make decisions on regionally significant projects from $10 million to $20 million.

We are committed to introducing effective, upfront community engagement in strategic planning in the new planning system. For the first time those rights will be enshrined in law through the Community Participation Charter, with the new mandatory requirement for all strategic plans to be publically exhibited.

Community input will occur where it has most influence – upfront, as new strategic plans to guide development and manage growth are prepared, delivering on our promise to return planning powers to the community.

The State Government and local councils will be required by law to prepare Community Participation Plans which will set out how and when the community is to be involved in planning decision making.

All planning authorities making important decisions will have to consider public submissions and then publish both reasons for decisions and an explanation of how those submissions were considered.

On corruption

The legislation includes significant elements that will minimise the risk of corruption including:

◾A greater focus on strategic consistency will increase certainty and transparency in planning outcomes by requiring a clear line of sight between development decisions and State,regional and local strategic plans.

◾A performance based approach to planning controls will promote objective and measurable outcomes and reduce discretion.

◾Increased transparency and public scrutiny with new mandatory community participation requirements on decision makers to publicly notify decisions and publish reasons, including how community views were taken into account.

◾Retaining and strengthening the requirements for disclosures of reportable political donations.

◾Increasing the role of independent panels and decision makers.

◾Retaining the existing rights to bring proceedings for development which is tainted by corruption and for the Minister to suspend these developmentconsents.

The ICAC has also written to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to acknowledge that changes to the legislation address to “a significant extent” concerns it had raised.

DP&I letter to ICAC (11 October 2013)
ICAC letter to DP&I (18 October 2013)
DP&I letter to ICAC (22 October 2013)
ICAC letter to DP&I (22 October 2013)

On protection for water resources

The Government has introduced strong protections for aquifers through new regulatory controls on water impacts from State significant mining and coal seam gas projects.

As part of the implementation of the Strategic Regional Land Use Policy, the Government established the Mining and Petroleum Gateway Panel.

The Gateway Panel’s role is to conduct an independent, upfront and evidence-based assessment of the impact of new State significant mining and coal seam gas proposals on strategic agricultural land and its associated water resources, before a proposal proceeds to the development application stage.

State significant proposals are also subject to tailored environmental assessment requirements prepared in consultation with relevant agencies, including the Office of Water. This ensures appropriate conditions can be imposed on planning approvals to address environmental impacts, including the protection of water resources.

Any State significant projects that are likely to have a significant impact on water resources will also be referred to the Commonwealth’s Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC) to consider water resource impacts as part of the development assessment process.
___________________________________________

Lock The Gate have responded 18 November 2013, on their website

 

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