NSW Budget – First steps in fixing planning system, but mining communities miss out

June 23, 2015

The NSW Government’s 2015-16 Budget has taken important steps to address the broken NSW planning system with a $17 million investment to halve the time it takes to assess state mining projects.  
However, the lack of a significant funding commitment for the Resources for Regions program will be of concern to mining communities, and a fall in mining royalties highlights the need for real action on planning reform.
“The Budget allocates funding to deliver the Premier’s commitment to halve the time it takes to assess state significant mining projects. It’s important that this funding is now used to deliver real reform,” NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee said today.
“In the Hunter alone, over 1,800 jobs have been hanging in the balance for over three years, stuck in the broken planning system.  Across NSW, PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimates around 20,000 current and potential mining-related jobs are caught up in a state planning system that moves with glacial speed,” Mr Galilee said.
“In addition, a fall in mining royalties demonstrates the need for planning reforms that deliver faster project approvals. Over the last financial year mining revenues fell by around $60 million to be  $300 million lower than Treasury forecasts.”
“Last year we warned that the Treasury forecasts on royalties were overly optimistic, and we have been proven right. This year the Treasury is forecasting mining royalties to grow by around 12 per cent on average over the forward estimates, and to deliver nearly $6 billion to NSW taxpayers over the next four years,” he said. 
“This again, is very optimistic considering expectations of moderate growth in world coal prices.  Although demand for NSW coal will continue to rise, export volumes will not deliver the forecast revenues unless key mining projects are approved in NSW,” Mr Galilee said.
 The Budget does contain some welcome funding commitments for the Hunter, including the reservation of $100 million from the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund and commitments to reserve $92 million for the Singleton Bypass and $68 million for the Muswellbrook Bypass from the Rebuilding NSW fund.
“However, mining communities across NSW will be disappointed by the lack of any significant additional funding commitment to the Resources for Regions program.”
“Confirmation in the Budget of the continued allocation of three per cent of Restart NSW funding to the Resources for Regions program is good, but the $9 million actually reserved is miniscule given total additional Restart NSW reservations are nearly $4.3 billion.”
“Mining communities across NSW will be hoping for further funding announcements on Resources for Regions in the very near future,” Mr Galilee said.
“Overall the Budget has gone someway to acknowledging the need to get our state moving through faster approval of major projects. However, there is a risk that the Government continues to underestimate the impact on mining communities of uncertainty surrounding the NSW planning system, and a fall in commodity prices.”
“Mining in NSW is the state’s most valuable export industry.  The sector employs 35,000 people in NSW and mining companies spent around $13.6 billion across the state on wages and business purchases in the last financial year, including $3.3 billion in Sydney,” he said.
 “Mining is going through tough times and its real jobs of real workers and their families on the ground that are being affected.” 
“It’s vital that the Government focuses on fostering mining investment, maintaining and creating mining jobs, and ensuring that our state’s most valuable export industry can continue to underpin the economic strength of our state,” Mr Galilee said.
Contact: Nat Openshaw | nopenshaw@nswmining.com.au | 0409 758 734 | 02 9274 1419    

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