Duplication, inconsistency and uncertain timeframes are all in the sights of the resources industry as it tries to tackle what it calls “the increasing failures” of the NSW government’s planning and assessment regime for large development proposals.
“The NSW resources sector is in desperate need of a more predictable and robust assessment process to protect future foreign investment and reduce the economic impacts of unnecessary duplication, red tape and uninformed decision making,” large miner Yancoal said in a submission to the government.
The role of the Planning Assessment Commission has come under increasing fire after a series of extended delays to decisions on projects such as Warkworth and more recently the Drayton South mine, with the government moving to amend planning legislation.
Within government, a range of experts already undertake detailed technical assessments of proposed developments before a further review by the Planning Assessment Commission, the mine owner said.
“The individuals involved … are highly trained in a range of relevant speciality areas such as groundwater modelling, subsidence and biodiversity and are best equipped to make qualitative judgements about state significant developments,” it said.
Inviting members of the Planning Assessment Commission, few of whom are experts in these areas to undertake a further round of assessments is “needless double handling and undermines the rigour of the assessment process”, it said.
In turn, this creates “unpredictability and inconsistent outcomes as this process “may – and in many instances does – offer opinions contradicting the views of established experts, imposing conditions of approval that lack economic practicality”, it said,
At the same time, the Planning Assessment Commission needs a “public interest test” to determine whether a review take place with guidelines such as the level of public participation during the review process, polling of community sentiment and the number of submissions received, whether they are from individuals or are “pro forma” submissions and whether the author resides in the affected area or not.
It should then be up to the minister to decide whether a formal review take place.
Yancoal said the changes are needed to “reorient the [Planning Assessment Commission’s] mandate towards this core task of review, with membership to also be revised to ensure it has the necessary skills”.