Mining SEPP reversal welcome, merit review should be restored

MEDIA RELEASE – 7 July 2015

The Greens NSW mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today welcomed news that the government had reversed the controversial mining State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP) that made the economic value of a resource the ‘principal consideration’ over other factors, but said the system was still biased in favour of the mining industry and that merit review rights should be restored and greater scrutiny be placed on the economic assessments lodged by proponents in their planning applications.

The reversal comes after the Planning Assessment Commission criticised the SEPP as unworkable in its review of the Wallarah 2 coal mine project:

“In the Commission’s view cl.12AA of the Mining SEPP does not necessarily sit comfortably with the consent authority’s task under s.79C of the Act. Even if it can be argued that cl.12AA is not technically flawed, applying it to this project application is difficult in practice.”  (p66)

“The Greens welcome the reversal of the Mining SEPP, but believe the planning system is still heavily biased towards big mining companies and that merit reviews by the courts should be reinstated,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The mining SEPP was a knee jerk reaction to the court ripping apart Rio Tinto’s Warkworth expansion application.  It was hubristic move designed to demonstrate the government intended to side with big mining companies over the environment and community concerns.

“Merit review rights are currently cancelled if the Planning Assessment Commission holds a public hearing – leaving communities with a Catch 22 as to whether they want to request a public hearing but lose the ability to lodge a merit appeal.

“Full merit appeal rights should be restored so that communities and individuals can choose to challenge a decision in the courts and have confidence that there is a genuine review of what are significant planning decisions.

“Minister Stokes should continue his reform agenda by ensuring his department conduct more thorough and critical reviews of the economic assessments made by proponents.  It is not good enough to allow dodgy economic modelling assumptions that massively inflate the value of a project to stand as a basis of decision making.”

Contact: Max Phillips – 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916

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