Why is there no transparent, independent process for Critical Industry Cluster status? – Transcript from Budget Estimates 18/08/2014

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: In relation to critical industry clusters, I refer to your answer on 8 April 2014 to a question that I put on notice regarding critical industry clusters applications to which you responded:

The Strategic Regional Land Use Policy does not establish a process for applications for critical industry cluster status. Therefore, no applications have been received.

Given the New South Wales Irrigators Council, the Ricegrowers’ Association, the Far North Coast Dairy Industry Group Inc., the Riverina citrus growers, the Riverina Wine Grapes Marketing Board and most recently Tweed council on behalf of sugarcane growers have all formally requested this status from you—

Mr SCOT MacDONALD: All industries you want to shut down.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: I repeat: Most recently Tweed council, on behalf of the sugarcane growers, has formally requested this status from you. Why is there no independent transparent process for determining applications?

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: That is interesting because when we came into government there was actually no process for really scrutinising applications in the space of coal seam gas mining and agriculture. When we came into government we got together a group of Ministers, led by the planning Minister, but certainly incorporating myself as the Minister for water and for agriculture, including the Minister for the Environment, the Deputy Premier and the Minister for mining and resources to develop a way forward. I created agriculture impact statements that need to be completed before the gateway process can commence, the Aquifer Interference Policy, which is the most comprehensive way of studying water and the impacts that a mine may potentially have—

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Minister, with respect—

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: I am getting to critical industry clusters [CICs].

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: If you could because I have limited time and there are a number of major industries that want to know why there is no process for applying for CICs.

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: Well, the determination has been for those critical industry clusters that have been announced.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: And what are those, Minister?

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: The determination was made by the ministerial committee and by the Government.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: What industries were they?

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: Thoroughbred breeding and viticulture. The 2012 Upper Hunter Strategic Regional Land Use Plan included two extensive areas of CIC, one for the equine industry and one for viticulture. The plan included an action to revise the CIC maps to ensure that the area identified as CIC was in fact used for that industry. In February 2013 a reference group was established to assist this process, including representatives from the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association and the Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

The maps were exhibited during October and November 2013 when landholders were given a final chance to nominate their enterprises for inclusion in the CIC area if it met the specified criteria. As part of that process the Government also allowed resource companies to nominate to be removed from the CIC if they met certain publicly available criteria. The exhibition of the draft CIC maps closed in mid-November 2013. Around 200 submissions were received and amounted to over 1,500 parcels of land. An interagency committee reviewed these submissions to determine which were eligible based on the agreed criteria. AGL was one of the companies that nominated and was accepted as meeting the criteria. The final CIC maps were announced on 28 January 2014 and given legal effect via an amendment to the State environmental planning policy—

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Minister please—

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: I am directly answering your question.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: I asked a specific question about other industries applying for this process. If you could be a little more pertinent I would appreciate it.

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: The Government has made clear that there will not be any further strategic regional land use plans and that in the future the regional growth plans under the new planning system will be developed. It is proposed that regional growth plans will address key strategic planning issues including housing infrastructure, economic development, mineral and energy resources and the environment, including agricultural land. The need and justification for new CICs will be considered during the development of these plans.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Okay, excellent.

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