NSW Government projects allowed to bypass planning system quagmire

October 10, 2019

The NSW Government needs to explain why it has repeatedly fast-tracked its own large and controversial projects through the state planning system, bypassing the Independent Planning Commission, while expecting other major projects to endure a lengthy, uncertain and costly assessment process that is costing jobs and investment in NSW.

 

The NSW Government has not submitted a single one of its own significant infrastructure projects to the long and dysfunctional process that other major projects in NSW have to endure, including the controversial Sydney CBD Light Rail, Sydney Football Stadium, Parramatta Light Rail, and Westconnex projects.

 

Mining and other major projects in NSW are subject to a lengthy assessment process involving the Department of Planning and the unelected Independent Planning Commission. This process involves mandatory public meetings and public hearings with the IPC acting as the final determination authority.

 

However, the NSW Government can declare - with virtually no recourse for appeal - projects ‘state significant infrastructure’ (SSI).  This allows the NSW Government projects to bypass planning scrutiny and be ‘rushed’ through the system. 

 

The Minister for Planning is the approval authority for SSI applications - not the IPC. In fact the IPC plays no role in the determination or assessment of SSI projects. Assessment times for SSI projects are also significantly quicker than for SSD projects.

 

Media reports yesterday reveal that the Planning Minister will also completely bypass the Independent Planning Commission when assessing the construction of new dams in NSW.  While this is good news for farmers and regions struggling with drought, it highlights how the Independent Planning Commission is contributing to planning risk and uncertainty in NSW. 

 

The Independent Planning Commission’s role in the NSW planning assessment system has made outcomes a lottery, as shown by recent decisions from the Independent Planning Commission on the Bylong and Dartbrook mining projects, and last week’s approval and withdrawal on the Rix’s Creek South project.

 

This is just another example of the broken the NSW planning system, and why action is needed to restore confidence in NSW as a place for major investment.

 

ENDS

Contact: Hugo Robinson | hrobinson@nswmining.com.au | 0409 758 734 | 02 9274 1419



 

BACKGROUND 

 

SAMPLE SSI PROJECTS APPROVAL TIMES

 

  • Parramatta Light Rail – 9 months (Aug 17 – May 18)

  • Sydney Light Rail – 7 months (Nov 13 – Jun 14)

  • Sydney Football Stadium Stage 1 – 6 months (Jun 18 – Dec 18)

  • Parramatta Stadium Stage 2 – 5 months (March 17 – Aug 17)

  • Westconnex M4 – 5 months

  • Westconnex M5 – 5 months (Nov 15 – May 16)

  • Westconnex Link – 8 months (Aug 17 – May 18)

 

SAMPLE AVERAGE DURATION - Mining project approvals 

 

  • Planning assessment timeframes for mining projects have more than doubled in recent years. In the five years to 2014 the average assessment timeframe was 414 days. 

 

  • From 2015 average assessment times are twice as long, taking almost 1000 days.

 

  • Recent examples of projects include:

    • Kepco Bylong - 4 years - rejected despite recommendation for approval

    • United Wambo - 3 years – approved with condition limiting international trade

    • Rocky Hill - 4.3 years - rejected

    • Rixs Creek - 4 years – Yet to be finalised due to recent IPC bungle 

    • Dartbrook Modification - Limited approval despite recommendation for full approval

    •  

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