LAST week's decision by the Independent Planning Commission to refuse the Kepco Bylong mining project has attracted a maelstrom of criticism from the NSW Minerals Council, which has embarked on an advertising campaign targeting the IPC.
"The refusal by the faceless IPC on the Kepco Bylong mining project represents everything that is wrong with the NSW planning system - and still the planning minister and NSW government do nothing," said a statement released after the decision was made public.
Commissioners Gordon Kirkby (panel chairman), Wendy Lewin and Stephen O'Connor were appointed to determine the state significant development application.
In its decision the IPC said the project was not in the public interest because it "is contrary to the principles of ecologically sustainable development".
It particularly highlighted "inter-generational equity", because the predicted economic benefits would accrue to the present generation but the long-term environmental, heritage and agricultural costs would be borne by the future generations.
The IPC also said the project was refused because:
- the groundwater impacts would be unacceptable;
- there was no evidence to support the applicant's claim that impacted Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land can be rehabilitated post-mining to BSAL-equivalent;
- given the expected level of disturbance to the existing natural landscape, the commission does not consider that a recreated landscape post-mining will retain the same aesthetic, scenic, heritage and natural values; and
- greenhouse gas aspects of the project remain problematical.
The minerals council statement released after the ruling was unequivocally critical: "This is an absurd and dangerous economic approach that risks making NSW an international investment laughing stock, losing investment and jobs due to uncertainty on who sets planning policy in NSW - faceless bureaucrats or elected representatives?
"This refusal is a massive lost opportunity for the local region and in particular the communities of Kandos and Rylstone, where the economic injection from the jobs and investment associated with the project are desperately needed," the statement said.
"This refusal comes after more than sevenyears of assessment, including repeated changes to the assessment processes and requirements during this period, highlighting just how difficult and complicated the current NSW planning system has become," it said.
"The NSW government needs to take back control of the planning system," NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee said on Tuesday, in announcing an advertising campaign targeting the IPC.
"The role of the IPC must change," he said.
"The increase in assessment timeframes must be addressed. Consistency and certainty must be restored.
"Projects should be assessed and determined against NSW government policy within acceptable timeframes, or more jobs and investment will be lost," he said.
The campaign began on Tuesday with initial print, radio and online advertising highlighting "how the broken NSW planning system is costing jobs and investment in NSW, particularly in the regions," said Mr Galilee.
"This goes beyond the mining sector.
"The NSW planning system has become a lottery for all major developments," he said.
"A lengthy and costly assessment process taking years and involving multiple government departments and agencies can deliver a positive recommendation, and then be ignored by an unelected, unaccountable panel of part-time appointees from the IPC," he said.
"This is simply not sustainable in a modern economy."
The Minerals Council attack annoyed Bylong Valley farmer Phillip Kennedy.
"It is obscene that the NSW Minerals Council is running a campaign like this during an intense drought that doesn't look like ending any time soon.
"There are whole towns running out of water," said Mr Kennedy.
"Feed is so scarce right now - we need to conserve the land and water we have so we can grow fodder.
"We cannot sustain both vitally important agriculture and a dirty great big coal mine.
"We've got the equivalent of a little bathtub in the Bylong Valley, not the Great Artesian Basin," Mr Kennedy said.
"The NSW Minerals Council has no idea - Bylong is a unique, small valley and it is ridiculous for anyone to think a mine won't impact the water and farmland here."
Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said the Minerals Council was out of touch.
"There's no future for regional NSW if we sacrifice precious water resources for the sake of a short-term mining grab," she said.
"That's what the Independent Planning Commission understood: development must provide for future generations, not short change them
"It's common sense that there are some places where open cut coal mining is not appropriate and our most fertile farmland is one of them," she said.