Tagged: "Planning"

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Valuer General’s report suggests coal seam gas may reduce property values

Posted on 12 May 2014

MEDIA RELEASE - 12 May 2014

The Greens NSW spokesperson on mining Jeremy Buckingham today expressed concern that a detailed report by the NSW Valuer General suggests that a mature coal seam gas industry may reduce property values.  

The report, commissioned the Valuer General in 2013 to investigate if the CSG industry is having a material impact on land values in New South Wales, found that:

  • as the industry is in its infancy in NSW there is not enough data to make an accurate assessment of the impact of coal seam gas on property values in NSW specifically;
  • there is anecdotal evidence which indicates that in some parts of NSW “negative perceptions of CSG [have] led to a reduction in the number of potential purchasers and an increase in the time taken to sell properties”
  • there are studies in America which have found that a net reduction in property values of up to 22% has occurred on properties with a gas well located on them

“Overseas experience clearly shows that a mature unconventional gas industry will have a negative impact on land valuation”, Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said.

“Currently there is a perception issue which is affecting land prices, but in the future we can expect to see further reductions as the inevitable environmental damage and legacy of ageing infrastructure become apparent.

“Coal seam gas production will see the disruption of other land use activities such as farming and tourism and this will contribute to further property price falls.

“Landholders are starting to ask themselves if the short term cash per well offered by the industry is worth the long term write down in their asset values.

“It is unacceptable that farmers and communities should be slugged with a reduction in their land values to support the profits of multinational gas companies.”

Contact: Max Phillips - 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916

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mine cut

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Time to clean up the mining industry’s community consultative committees

Posted on 11 April 2014

MEDIA RELEASE - 11 April 2014

mine cut

The Greens NSW spokesperson on mining, Jeremy Buckingham, today called on the government to reform the regulations around mining community consultative committees (CCC) after it was revealed that one woman, Margaret Macdonald-Hill was employed as the independent chair of 15 different CCCs by seven different mining companies and that her payments have not been disclosed.

Gary West, former Nationals MP, former mining minister and current Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) member and Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) member also chairs the Integra Vale CCC, the Ulan coal CCC, Moorlaben coal CCC, and the BHP Caroona CCC for undisclosed sums.

The Department of Planning Guidelines for CCCs make it clear that payments to the ‘independent chair’ should be disclosed on the website:

“If such fees or expenses are paid, then the company should indicate that this is occurring on the company’s website, so that the broader community remains fully informed.”

“I cannot find a single instance where a resource company has publicly declared the payments to the ‘independent chair’ of their CCC.  These companies are in breach of the planning department’s rules,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“Undeclared payments directly from the mining company undermine the independence of the chair and the community’s confidence in the CCC.  The current system means that the community often perceives the ‘independent chair’ as simply a stooge of the mining company.

“The regulations should be changed so that the ‘independent chair’ is appointed and paid by the government, not by the mining companies.   The chair’s payment should be publicly disclosed by the government.

“The Greens want reform of the CCCs because communities have lost all faith in them and see them more as a facade on consultation that simply does the companies bidding and ties up the community.

“It’s an outrageous conflict of interest that former Nationals MP Gary West can be paid by coal companies to chair CCCs, and then also have a role as a decision maker with the PAC and JRPP.  Gary West is notoriously pro-coal and was on the PAC that approved the controversial Maules Creek coal mine.

“The government must clean up with part of the mining sector.  The people of NSW are sick of corruption and cronyism.  The Greens will continue our push for clean politics,” he said.

Contact: Max Phillips - 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916

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Government & Rio Tinto should respect Supreme Court’s decision

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Government & Rio Tinto should respect Supreme Court’s decision

Posted on 07 April 2014

MEDIA RELEASE - 7 April 2014

Bulga John Krey

John Krey from the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association addresses the media outside the Supreme Court of NSW

The Greens NSW spokesperson on mining Jeremy Buckingham today congratulated the people of Bulga on their win in the Supreme Court, which dismissed an appeal brought by Rio Tinto and the NSW Government.  He called on both appellants to now respect the decision of the court by dropping plans to expand the Warkworth coal mine and removing the SEPP amendment that prioritised mining over the community or environment.

“The Greens congratulate the community of Bulga and the Environmental Defenders Office on a fantastic and important victory in the Supreme Court today,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The original Land and Environment court judgement was a landmark ruling that restored some rationality and balance to mining development assessments and it is significant that the Supreme Court of NSW has supported the judgment.

“Rio Tinto should respect the court judgements and the community of Bulga and abandon their plans to expand the Warkworth coal mine.  The original expansion plans were economically justified by a high coal price that has since collapsed.

“The NSW government should respect the Court’s judgement.  There should be no special legislation to overturn these decision and the government should repeal the recent planning instrument that made economic considerations the primary factor for coal mine assessment.Bulga celebration

“This judgement shows the importance of communities having the ability to challenge assessment decisions.  This ability has largely been removed by the implementation of the process where the Planning Assessment Commission reviews its own decisions.  The Greens support the reinstitution of a merit appeal process with the Land and Environment Court.

“Without the Environmental Defenders Office, the community of Bulga would not have been able to defend their community.  Premier Barry O’Farrell should reverse his previous decision to strip the EDO of funding so that ordinary citizens and communities can be properly represented in our courts,” he said.

John Krey Bulga

Contact: Max Phillips - 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916

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Govt bungles aquifer interference policy on Santos’ giant coal seam gas project

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Govt bungles aquifer interference policy on Santos’ giant coal seam gas project

Posted on 04 April 2014

MEDIA RELEASE  4 April 2014

The Greens NSW spokesperson on mining Jeremy Buckingham today expressed his dismay that the government’s centrepiece policy to protect groundwater, the Aquifer Interference policy, will not apply to the assessment of Santos’ 850 gas well project, despite admissions from Santos that there are risks to aquifers, a record of contamination incidents and the fact that it sits above a Great Artesian Basin recharge area.

Santos have lodged their Preliminary Environmental Assessment with the Department of Planning as the first stage of the assessment process.  Page 29 says: “an aquifer interference approval would not be required for the proposed development” arguing that this is because the government has not made the appropriate ‘proclamation’.

“This is a catastrophic bungle by the O’Farrell Government.  The Aquifer Interference policy is meant to be the centrepiece policy to protect groundwater from mining.  That it does not apply to the largest coal seam gas project in the state is a complete farce,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The Greens call for any assessment of the project to be halted until the government can rectify this bungle to ensure that the Aquifer Interference requirement is applied to the assessment of the Santos project.

“If this is an intentional oversight to help push through the Santos project, then the government has a lot of explaining to do.  If it is a bungle, then the Water Minister should resign.

“The Preliminary Environmental Assessment admits that coal seam gas development may impact on groundwater quality and quantities, with risks that cross-contamination of aquifers can occur and there may be cumulative drawdown impacts and subsidence.

“A major concern about coal seam gas has always been its impact on water.  This project cannot slip through a loop hole and put at risk local water resources and the Great Artesian Basin.

“Other concerns with the project include bushfire risks, the vague plans to deal with the massive amounts of salt and toxic waste water this project will create, as well as significant native vegetation clearing and industrialisation of the Pilliga forest and surrounding bushland,” he said.

A project brief sheet follows.

Contact: Max Phillips - 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916


The Preliminary Environmental Assessment document has been released by Santos for the Pilliga coal seam gas project.


The project will be 850 gas wells with an area of 98,000 hectares.  It will include high voltage power lines hooked up to the state grid; an expansion of the already massive waste water facilities; in-field compressor stations; as well as a large gas treatment plant.

Major issues:

1)     Claim they do not need to get an Aquifer Interference approval.

P.29 Although Santos admit “the project would encounter groundwater, and would, therefore, penetrate an aquifer” they claim that the government has not ‘proclaimed’ the Aquifer Interference provisions of the Water Management Act.   “Accordingly, an aquifer interference approval would not be required for the proposed development.”


Aquifer interference approval was the O’Farrell Government’s major policy put in place to protect aquifers from damage from mining. It is the centrepiece of their policy response.  The fact that the biggest coal seam gas project in NSW, that sits on top of a Great Artesian Basin recharge area, does not need to get an aquifer interference approval is a scandal.


2)     Admission that project will likely damage groundwater.
P.39-40 Admit the project has the impact to damage groundwater through:

  1. Depressurisation
  2. Leakage through poorly constructed gas wells
  3. Changes to groundwater quality
  4. Cross-contamination of aquifers
  5. Cumulative drawdown impacts
  6. Subsidence
  7. Spills and leaks affecting shallow alluvial aquifers
  8. Changes to groundwater ecosystems

3)     There is no clear plan for waste water or salt management.
The EIS is vague about how it will dispose of waste water, brine and the huge quantities of salt it will produce.  It is highly likely that the salt will have to be buried as land fill.  This will require a site of hundreds of hectares.  Where will the salt be buried? P.14-15

A significant expansion of the waste water ponds will be required. These ponds are already 800 mega litres or 325 Olympic swimming pools in size.


4)     The project is likely to be connected to the electricity grid and require high voltage transmission lines through a bushfire prone area. P.15-16


5)     Admission that a fire at a gas well head could initiate a bush fire
Placing a major gas field in the middle of a highly bush fire prone forest has always been a major concern for local residents.


6)     Santos admit there will only be 200 ongoing jobs.

 Download this press release.

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CSG well Pilliga

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Government blocks release of documents on Santos aquifer contamination & MOU

Posted on 27 March 2014

MEDIA RELEASE - 27 March 2014

The Greens NSW spokesperson on mining Jeremy Buckingham today accused the O’Farrell Government of covering up after they blocked a motion in the NSW Upper House for all documents relating to the aquifer contamination incident and investigation, as well as the MOU to fast track the assessment process for the Santos Narrabri coal seam gas project.CSG well Pilliga

“The Greens are very concerned that there has been collusion between Santos and government departments and the denial of documents only increase our concern,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The citizens of NSW are entitled to know why the EPA took so long to report the aquifer contamination, why the fine was so tiny, and what happened behind the scenes?

“There is concern that the EPA is far too close to industry and evidence of collusion with Orica to downplay pollution incidents.  We are very concerned that the same thing has happened with the Santos pollution incident that resulted in an aquifer having uranium at 20x safe drinking water levels, as well as heavy metals such as lead and arsenic.

“Was the government aware of the aquifer contamination incident when they signed an MOU to fast-track the Santos Narrabri coal seam gas project?

“Barry O’Farrell promised a more accountable and transparent government, yet they act the same as when NSW Labor were in office by refusing to release this information to the parliament.

“The Greens will attempt to access the information through a Freedom of Information request,” he said.

Contact: Max Phillips - 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916

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The importance of renewable energy - speech - 18 March 2014

Posted on 21 March 2014

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Crown Lands Amendment (Multiple Land Use) Bill 2013

Posted on 14 November 2013

Keeping public lands in public hands: Crown Lands Amendment (Multiple Land Use) Bill 2013

The Government introduced a bill in September 2013 to change the way Crown reserves (including travelling stock routes) are managed in NSW. Read the Minister’s second reading speech here.

This has ostensibly been done to address the Goomallee court case which found that a grazing licence granted over a parcel of Crown land reserved for the purpose of “public recreation” was unlawful, and as the licence was not for the same purpose as the reserve or “in furtherance of or incidental to” the purpose of the reserve, it invalidated the secondary purpose.

This Bill has severe implications for how Crown reserves are used in NSW, and the Greens have strong concerns about the transparency, probity and necessity for the Bill.

The Government did have to respond to the Goomallee decision in some form. However, the Bill is excessive and over-reaching in its methods to address the widespread invalidation of grazing leases after Goomallee. Fundamentally, the Bill vests significant executive discretion in the Minister to manage crown reserves without sufficient public oversight.

Read the letter from the Law Society regarding the Bill, and Jeremy and Jan’s letter responding to the Bill.



Crown reserves are crown lands set aside on behalf of the community for a wide range of public purposes including environmental and heritage protection, recreation and sport, open space, community halls and special events. The Crown Lands Acts sets out public consultation and notification processes for reservation of land as a crown land reserve.

The Minister has power to reserve Crown land for public purposes in accordance with Part 5, Division 3 of the Crown Lands Act 1989.

Approximately 35,000 Crown reserves in NSW, which is approximately 4% of the land area of the State. TSRs cover approximately 500,000 hectares, which is approximately 6% of the State. Crown land itself is about 42% of the State, which includes national parks, State forests, schools, hospitals, sporting fields and conservation areas.

Leases, licences, permits et cetera can be granted over these reserves by the Crown Lands Division (the Minister) or by reserve trusts, pursuant to s 34A of Crown Lands Act 1989. Since amendments to the Crown Lands Act in 2005, the Minister can authorise a reserve to be used for additional purposes, other than the declared purpose, so long as the additional purpose is compatible with the reserved purpose, consistent with principles of Crown land management, and is in the public interest (s 121A).

In the 2012 court case of Goomallee, the court found that a grazing licence granted over a parcel of Crown land reserved for the purpose of “public recreation” was unlawful, and as the licence was not for the same purpose as the reserve or “in furtherance of or incidental to” the purpose of the reserve, it invalidated the secondary purpose. This therefore meant the land in question was ‘claimable Crown land’ for the purposes of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983.


What the Bill does

Amends the Crown Lands Act 1989 so that existing and future secondary tenures over Crown reserves (including travelling stock routes) are valid, provided they are not causing or likely to cause ‘material harm’ to the primary purpose of the reserve.

Bill’s purpose is to validate secondary tenures on crown reserves, many of which may be invalid for a range of reasons including incompatibility of purpose, non-existent leases or administrative/procedural errors.


Concerns with the Bill

 Inadequate consultation with affected stakeholders or publicising of the Bill, particularly the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, a key stakeholder affected by this Bill. The Bill has been introduced before the Crown lands & Aboriginal Lands Right Review have been completed.

Material harm’ test used in the Bill is undefined and sets a low threshold which will severely limit the protection afforded by the existing ‘further/ancillary to’ test, or even the ‘inconsistency’ test.  The ‘material harm’ test is completely new, and is not reflected in case law regarding Crown law reserves. Interpretation of material harm is left entirely to the discretion of the Minister. The public interest test which currently exists in the Crown Lands Act 1989 is being overridden by this subjective test which requires no gazettal or public oversight.

Dispute resolution - There is no dispute resolution procedure as referred to in the Minister’s 2nd reading speech

Retrospectivity - Existing tenures will be subject to a blanket retrospective validation.  Appropriate safeguards need to be implemented in order to determine tenures that are likely to cause material harm, before they are validated carte blanche.

Puts unnecessary limits on judicial process - The requirement in the proposed s 35A that a party gives 6 months’ notice before challenging the validity of an interest in Court proceedings is an unacceptable and invasive fettering of the judicial process. This provision should be removed and replaced with the dispute resolution provision referred to in the 2nd reading speech.

Crown Lands Act already provides for multiple purposes – The Crown Lands Act already provides for multiple Crown land purposes. Multiple uses of land is allowed as long as it is not in conflict in terms of purpose. Section 121A explicitly provides that the Minister may authorise a reserve to be used for an additional purpose, so long as it is compatible with the declared purpose, consistent with the principles of Crown land management and is in the public interest. Rather than following the Act’s provisions, the Bill introduces a loophole which defeats the purpose of publicly gazetting Crown lands.

Scaremongering – Claims about the Goomallee decision throwing doubt on a number of secondary Crown reserves are inappropriately being used to scare the public about the implications of Goomallee. The Deputy Premier has claimed that CWA halls, Meals on Wheels kitchens, men’s sheds, preschools, libraries, council chambers, community centres, and other public assets are at risk since the judgement in Goomallee. In most instances this is incorrect. These organisations have purposes which are clearly consistent with reservation for ‘future public purposes’.

Impact on Aboriginal land rights claims – This Bill makes unjustified inroads into nullifying potential Aboriginal Land Rights claims without proper consultation with Aboriginal stakeholders, or a thorough analysis of the impacts it will have on current and future land claims.

Government is asking parliament to absolve wrongdoing – This Bill is seeking to absolve the mistake of Crown lands for the incorrect and unlawful issuing of secondary interests over Crown reserves for purposes which the declared purpose does not allow.


What stakeholders want

  • Full and transparent consultation with all stakeholders
  • Delay the Bill until the Crown Lands Review and Aboriginal Land Rights review are completed or reduce the scope of the Bill to only deal with grazing licences.
  • Undertake and make public an audit of the Crown lands and Aboriginal land claims that will be affected by the Bill
  • Remove the retrospectivity aspects of the Bill, and instead make it operate from the date of assent.
  • Provide a dispute resolution process that involves relevant stakeholders where there are challenges to the validity of an interest in crown reserves.
  • Adequately define ‘material harm’ and provide objective requirements by which it can be measured.
  • Introduce a sunset clause, to enable Crown Lands to get its ‘house in order’ before reverting back to the existing framework.
  • Establish a public register of the secondary interests that are validated by the Bill for the purposes of transparency and probity.


Resources & Media

Land and Property Management Authority information sheet




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Government sides with mining companies against communities with new planning policy

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Government sides with mining companies against communities with new planning policy

Posted on 04 November 2013

MEDIA RELEASE - 4 November 2013

Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham condemned the new Mining SEPP to be gazetted this week that elevates economic considerations above those of the environment and communities, saying that the government was lining up with the big mining companies against communities and the environment and that good planning principles were being jettisoned as part of a power play between Resources Mining Chris Hartcher and Planning Minister Brad Hazzard.Coal mine vertical

“This Mining SEPP is aimed at overturning recent decisions that recognised community and environmental concerns, such as the Warkworth mine expansion decision by the Land and Environment Court, the Planning Assessment Commission decisions on CoalPac near Lithgow and Drayton South in the Hunter,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“This Mining SEPP is all about providing the government with powers to push mining into communities that oppose them, or into areas where they will damage fragile environments.

“The Minister is lying when he says this is about ‘balance’.  This is all about weighting the scales in favour of the big mining companies, so that communities or the environment are only second-rate considerations.  It’s about delivering for Rio Tinto.

“The government has jettisoned the triple bottom line approach to modern planning and gone back to the bad old days where short-term money is the primary consideration.

“There is a power play happening between hard right Resources Minister Hartcher and moderate Planning Minister Brad Hazzard.  The community and environment seem to be pawns in this internal Liberal Party factional warfare.”

Contact: Max Phillips 0419 444 916

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Broader inquiry needed into Macdonald’s coal and gas licences after ICAC’s damning report

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Broader inquiry needed into Macdonald’s coal and gas licences after ICAC’s damning report

Posted on 30 October 2013

MEDIA RELEASE - 30 October 2013

The Greens NSW spokesperson on mining Jeremy Buckingham called for a broader inquiry into all exploration licences issued by the former Labor government and a review of the Mining and Petroleum Acts, after ICAC released a damning report that concluded that the current allocation system had “so many risks and opportunities for corruption, it was almost inevitable that corruption would occur at some point.”  photo (2)

“ICAC is damning in its criticism of the current system of allocation. The Greens want to see a swift and comprehensive response from the government, including an overhaul of the law in this area and an inquiry into licences granted under the former Labor government,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“ICAC has concluded that ‘perverse incentives and opportunities are embedded in the existing coal allocation system have the capacity to distort the decision-making process on what and when coal deposits should be released ‘. The government must move quickly to fix what is clearly a broken system.

“The Greens welcome the recommendations made by ICAC. The Greens believe a representative of the Office of Environment should be included on the proposed steering group to oversee this area.

“The Greens welcome the use of competitive auctions for licences and have serious concerns over the seemingly ad hoc amounts paid for licences under the previous government.

“Clearly the recommendations of this ICAC report necessitate a serious overhaul of both the Mining Act and the Petroleum (Onshore) Act.

“Given the inadequacies of the system and that two former mining ministers have been found to have acted corruptly, there should be a broader inquiry into the exploration and production licences issued by the former government.”

Contact: Max Phillips - 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916


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Coal seam gas - ABC News - 3 October 2013

Posted on 24 October 2013

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