Definition of independent not up for debate

Independent Planning Commission won't be rushed on Narrabri

Opinion
A vast show of hands from the crowd at Coonamble Bowls Club passes 'The Coonamble Declaration'.

A vast show of hands from the crowd at Coonamble Bowls Club passes 'The Coonamble Declaration'.

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EDITORIAL: A decision on the Narrabri Gas Project will come when it comes.

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WHEN Santos chief executive Kevin Gallagher boldly declared on Sky News in May that he hoped the Narrabri Gas Project would be approved by "year end" he inadvertently shone a light on how planning decisions are made in NSW.

The controversial project is yet to be referred to the NSW Independent Planning Commission, which these days is a consent body unto itself.

The Department of Planning can make recommendations, but ultimately the IPC will rule whether or not the Narrabri Gas Project goes ahead.

Rightly it is legally liable for its decisions, hence the robust consideration it affords all that comes before it.

For the chief executive of a publicly listed company to predict an IPC timeframe for a major planning decision about one of the company's projects is either wishful thinking, or a deliberate ploy to influence that decision.

Really, neither is appropriate.

During the same broadcast in May Mr Gallagher suggested the people of the region wanted the project.

There were 22,949 submissions when the Planning Department publicly displayed Santos's environmental impact statement and that 98 per cent of the submissions objected to the project suggests there are certainly some people in the region who do not want it to proceed.

In July and August last year, in a doorknock survey of Narrabri, 840 people offered their opinions of unconventional gas - 28.33pc approved of the project, 51.90pc were against, 19.76pc unsure.

Then there's the Coonamble Declaration, a three-point series of motions passed unanimously at a gathering of more than 400 people at the Coonamble Bowls Club on December 6, 2017, "vehemently" rejecting unconventional gas and associated projects.

And consider the North West Alliance, an alignment of groups collectively working towards informing people about projects in the region that will potentially affect them.

This correspondent, having sat through an IPC public hearing, was staggered by the high quality of submissions.

How planning decisions are made has changed. Public participation in the process backed by unprecedented access to technical information has forever transformed the decision-making processes for the better.

More voices are being heard.

Bluster and cash just won't cut it.

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