Category Archives: Media

Ombudsman’s report exposes water compliance as rotten to the core

MEDIA RELEASE – 15 Nov 2017

A special report to the NSW Parliament by the NSW Ombudsman exposes that water compliance and enforcement has been rotten to the core for almost a decade and the government has failed to act despite repeated and detailed warning by the Ombudsman.  Previous Ombudsman reports in 2009, 2012 and 2013 told the government of the serious issues with compliance and enforcement, yet the government has failed to act and refused to publicly release those three Ombudsman reports.

NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said:

“It’s clear that enforcement of water law does not function in NSW and is rotten to the core.  Some of these revelations are worse than 4 Corners or the Matthews Report.

“The government has been repeatedly warned by the Ombudsman that water compliance and enforcement is rotten, yet has turned a blind eye and deliberately hid previous Ombudsman reports from the public.

“It is only because the Ombudsman used his powers to go around the water minister and have this interim report tabled in parliament that we now know just how rotten things are in Water NSW.

“We need a broad ranging Royal Commission to investigate water in NSW so that all the issues and allegations that are out there are thoroughly investigated independently.

“Water minister Niall Blair must have known about the serious compliance and enforcement issues, but has done nothing but stonewall and cover up.  Enforcement actions have plunged under Minister Blair from 820 in 2014/15, to 200 in 2016/17.

“The Natural Resource Access Regulator Bill currently before parliament is a case in point.  The Bill fails to properly implement the recommendations of the Matthews Inquiry that compliance and Enforcement be controlled by an independent body.  The bill leaves responsibility with the Minister and the Department of Primary Industries, thus failing to deal with the conflict of interest identified by Ken Matthews and the Ombudsman.

“The Nationals must be stripped of the water portfolio or it will remain an area of maladministration and ripe for corruption.”

Some highlights from the Investigation into water compliance and enforcement 2007-2017:

  • The Ombudsman initiated his investigation in July 2016. He referred one matter to ICAC in April 2017.
  • Previous Ombudsman reports in 2009, 2012 and 2013 warned about serious issues – were kept secret by the government.
  • Compliance officers were ‘press ganged’ into the role without proper training or skills.
  • Water NSW staff allege they were directed not to investigate or had their delegations removed.
  • No enforcement action had been taken on unlicensed dams that contained large volumes of water and were being used for irrigation purposes without the required water access licences or water allocations in a water sharing plan area.
  • The transfer of some compliance and enforcement functions to Water NSW under the Transformation was having a debilitating effect on the conduct of enforcement activities across the State.
  • There were systemic failures by senior management, in both past and current regimes, to take action on water compliance matters.
  • Expenditure on compliance between 2012 and 2016 was $10 million less than recommended by IPART.
  • Excessive delays in completing investigations and taking enforcement and prosecution action and of matters that were not being sufficiently prepared before the relevant statute of limitation periods expired.

Nationals out of touch with Lismore on  proposed Adani ban

MEDIA RELEASE – 25 October 2017

 

NSW Greens resources spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today said the National Party were out of touch with the community of Lismore and the Northern Rivers and wrong on the Adani coal mine issue, after the Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey criticised Lismore Council for considering a ban on contractors that work on the Adani coal mine.

“Lismore Council should be congratulated for considering a ban on contractors that work with the Adani company on their climate destroying coal mine,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The Adani mine is a national issue that represents a line in the sand on climate change.  It is entirely appropriate for a local council, representing a community that cares about the environment and wants to protect the climate, to take real and meaningful action.

“Melinda Pavey’s comments show that the National Party is populated by a bunch of out-of-touch dinosaurs that need to be booted out of power.

“The National Party should be ashamed of their support for the Adani coal mine and the proposal to give $1 billion of taxpayers money to subsidise the railway to take coal from the proposed mine.

“Recent polling indicates the National Party is severely on the nose in Lismore and out-of-touch with the community on issues such as climate change and renewable energy.

The Greens almost won the seat last time and are ready to step up and give Lismore representation in NSW Parliament that actually reflects the community’s values.

“The National Party got it wrong with their support of coal seam gas and they’re getting it wrong on the Adani coal mine, climate change and renewables.  They’re a party stuck in the past.”

Don’t mess with Gloucester – Rocky Hill mine recommended for rejection

MEDIA RELEASE – 23 October 2017

NSW Greens resources spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today congratulated the people of Gloucester for fighting off the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine after it was recommended for rejection by the Department of Planning.

The Department of Planning’s report concludes:  The Department does not believe that the impacts of [the mine’s] proximity are able to be dealt with through conditions to the consent, and as a result the Department has not made any recommendations in relation to possible conditions. Having assessed all matters relevant to the amended project as set out in this report, the Department does not consider that the amended project is able to or should be approved, and the Department does not recommend that the Commission approve the development.” [page iii]

“Has the worm finally turned?  Finally some common sense from the Department of Planning on a mine application in NSW!” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The Planning Assessment Commission should now reject this mine and the government should cancel the exploration licence for the area to give the residents of Gloucester some certainty for the future.

“This is fantastic news for the people of Gloucester.  The mine was far too close to residential areas and impacted good agricultural land and would have severely impacted the town and the valley.

“Gloucester should be a hub for tourism, agriculture and lifestyle.  The Greens congratulate the Gloucester Groundswell community group and all the residents who campaigned to preserve the beauty and amenity of their wonderful valley.

“This resilient community has fought off AGL’s proposed 300 coal seam gas wells, and now a coal mine that would have come within a kilometre of the town.  It shows that gaining a social licence to operate should not be dismissed by corporate leaders.

“In an era of climate change we must phase out coal mining.  There should be no new coal mines built in NSW and the government should implement a structured phase out of coal with a transition strategy for those communities and regional economies that are impacted by coal mining.”

Broken Hill pipeline business case a poor excuse for killing the Darling River and Menindee Lakes

MEDIA RELEASE – 23 October 2017

NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today said the release of the business case for the Wentworth to Broken Hill water pipeline showed the government was again preferencing big cotton irrigators over the health of the Darling River and expecting the residents and businesses of Broken Hill to pay for it.

NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said:

“This business case is a plan to spend a huge amount on an unnecessary pipeline so that the government can let the Darling River die and kill the Menindee Lakes by bypassing them and emptying them far more rapidly when they do fill.

“It is the brainchild of former Deputy Director-General of DPI Water Gavin Hanlon and his department who are now under investigation by ICAC for allegedly conspiring with a cohort of big cotton irrigators on the Upper Darling.

“The business case was clearly written with the government’s preferred answer in mind – a pipeline that will allow them to run the Menindee Lakes dry and allow more water to be taken out of the Darling River by upstream irrigators.

“The business case objectives fail to consider the environmental, amenity, recreation, tourism and cultural values of a healthy Darling River and Menindee Lakes – issues that should be central to a truly triple-bottom line approach.

“The business case fails to assess the option of a combination of smaller projects to address water security needs, instead opting for the big expensive pipeline option.  A combination of other smaller infrastructure and management options, as well as long-term efforts to restore the health of the Darling River was not considered.

“The business case rejects ‘water licence buybacks to secure Menindee Lakes supply’ because it would mean less water for upstream cotton production.

“It is presented as a fait accompli to the people of NSW, without any of the detailed modelling or public debate about the various options.  The business case should not have been kept secret and released only after the government has awarded the tender.  This is disgraceful governance from Water Minister Niall Blair.

“The pipeline will encumber the residents and businesses of Broken Hill with significant ongoing increases to their water bills.  They are being forced to pay for something they don’t want and for the Menindee Lakes to be downgraded to just a temporary storage for South Australian irrigators.

“Water Minister Blair says this pipeline is necessary because water buybacks are unpopular.  However, buybacks are only unpopular with his big irrigator mates.  Most Australians want to see the water buybacks necessary to restore our major rivers and wetlands to a healthy state.”

Berejiklian guts protections for clean drinking water for Sydney

MEDIA RELEASE – 10 October 2017

NSW Greens resources spokesman Jeremy Buckingham warned that the Berejiklian Government was gutting protections for the quality of Sydney’s drinking water with legislation introduced into parliament today ditching the ‘neutral and beneficial’ test for all types of development that are an extension to existing developments in the entire catchment area.  The Sydney Drinking Water Catchment extends from the Snowy Mountains to Lithgow and from Crookwell to the Illawarra.

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sydney’s Drinking Water Catchment) Bill 2011 has two parts.  Schedule 1 validates the development consent for the Springvale coal mine (that the Court of Appeal found was invalid because it polluted the water catchment).  Schedule 2 ditches the test that extensions to existing developments (not just mines) must be either ‘neutral or beneficial’ for water quality in the catchment.

Jeremy Buckingham NSW Greens energy and resources spokesman said:

“The Berejiklian Government is using the confected crisis of Mt Piper power station’s coal supply to sneak through laws that gut protections for the quality of Sydney’s drinking water supply.

“The legislation goes far beyond the issue of the Springvale coal mine and allows any extensions to existing developments in the whole Sydney Drinking Water Catchment to avoid the ‘neutral or beneficial’ test designed to improve the quality of Sydney’s drinking water.

“The Greens agree with the Court of Appeal that the ‘neutral or beneficial’ test should mean that any development in the catchment area should not pollute Sydney’s drinking water.

“The Sydney Drinking Water Catchment is a huge area of NSW, stretching from the Snowy Mountains to the Blue Mountains, from Crookwell to the Illawarra.  This change will apply to all types of existing developments, whether they are a mine, a piggery, an abattoir, a chicken farm, or a housing development.

“A perverse outcome of the legislation is that it will penalise new environmentally sensitive development over older more polluting developments.  New developments will be held to a much higher standard than the extension of existing developments.

“It freezes in time poor levels of pollution control at the expense of Sydney’s drinking water quality. It guts the principle that development in the catchment area should be either neutral or beneficial for water quality.”

Sydney’s drinking water should not be polluted by a rogue coal mine

MEDIA RELEASE – 9 October 2017

The Greens NSW energy and resources spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today criticised the Berejiklian Government for plans to introduce special legislation to allow the Springvale coal mine near Lithgow to pollute Sydney’s drinking water and weaken protections for water quality in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.

“Once again we see the big coal and energy companies essentially blackmailing the government to intervene in a decision by the courts.  The government should let the Court do its job as the parties to the case were aware of the consequences of the decision and were prepared to negotiate a sensible set of orders,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“Undermining the integrity of the courts and the Planning Act with special legislation is a shonky way to govern.

“In the past we’ve seen corrupt former mining minister Ian Macdonald intervene with special retrospective legislation for the BHP Caroona coal project, and we saw the current Liberal-National government change the law to downgrade environmental and social considerations in planning decisions after Rio Tinto’s Warkworth coal mine’s extension was overturned by the Land and Environment Court.

“The proposed changes to the Act means that an existing mine can be extended or modified just as long as it pollutes the water catchment just a little less that it currently does. This is a significant weakening of protections for our drinking water quality and has significant implications for other areas, such as mining under the Illawarra Escarpment.

“Centennial Coal is a rogue operator with 913 recorded licence breaches at the Springvale mine between 2000 and 2015.  Environmentalists have been warning for years about destruction and pollution from this mine – it’s not like the government was in the dark.

“The government should have stood up to the blackmail and made Centennial Coal fast-track its waste water pipeline and water treatment plant and commit to stop its constant licence breaches and destruction of the environment.

“Mt Piper power station has a coal unloading facility onsite for the delivery of coal by truck from mines other than Springvale, while the nearby rail line used to supply the now closed Wallarawang power station only a few kilometres away.

“This is a lazy approach by the NSW Government, putting the interests of one coal mine ahead of Sydney’s drinking water.

“This shows the vulnerability of coal-fired power stations that they are so reliant on a constant coal supply from mines that destroy the environment. Nature provides solar and wind with a consistent and free supply of energy.

“Aging coal-fied power stations are now lurching from one crisis to another.  This highlights the failure of the NSW government to invest in renewable energy.

“The Greens will oppose this legislation and call on the government and Labor to maintain the integrity of our planning system and the protection of the drinking water supply for millions of people.”

Coal seam gas has no social licence in NSW

MEDIA RELEASE – 26 September 2017

NSW Greens resources spokesman Jeremy Buckingham rebuffed Prime Minister Turnbull’s call for the Narrabri coal seam gas project to be approved, saying that the industry did not have a social licence and even if it was approved it would not solve a gas crisis created by policy failure to protect the domestic gas market from unregulated exports.

“For years now the citizens of NSW have made it clear that coal seam gas does not have a social licence to operate and political parties of all persuasions have listened to this message to varying degrees,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“This is a crisis forged by greedy multinational oil and gas companies, with successive Labor and Liberal-National governments failing to properly regulate gas exports despite repeated warnings from the manufacturing industry, unions and the Greens.

“Even if the Narrabri gas project was approved tomorrow, it will face fierce opposition and direct action from concerned farmers and others, it will be several years before the gas will hit the market, and the relatively small amount of gas will have no impact on the international gas price which is now dominating the domestic market.

“Why do Australian politicians cower before the idea of sovereign risk?  This is a construct of the big corporations and their lobbyists with the result that multinationals feel they can walk all over Australian interests with virtual impunity.

“The concept of sovereign risk should not stop governments acting in the national interest, especially when the risk to the manufacturing sector impacts on far more jobs than are in LNG exports.

“The pursuit of coal seam gas for export as LNG has been a monumental policy failure and has had catastrophic consequences for the environment and our economy.  Now households and businesses are paying the price with rising energy costs and job losses in other sectors of the economy,” he said.

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