Sartor lifts environment checks on developers

Issue 

NSW planning minister Frank Sartor has attempted to "clarify" the outcome of a bill currently before the state parliament that would remove the current requirement that development proposals contain an adequate environmental assessment. The bill would also thwart a court case against the proposed Anvil Hill coalmine in the Hunter Valley.

On November 15, Sartor moved amendments to the bill that he claimed would satisfy community concerns, but the amendments do no such thing.

The amended bill would allow developments to be approved even if the environment assessment does not meet the requirements, and would apply retrospectively to developments currently being assessed. It would therefore nullify the outcome of the case currently in the Land and Environment Court that seeks to force an assessment of the climate change impacts of the proposed Anvil Hill coalmine.

Under the current planning act, compliance with environmental assessment requirements is a prerequisite for approval. Under the amendments passed by the lower house on November 15, however, this will no longer be the case. The amendments merely require the planning department director general to prepare a "statement relating to compliance with environmental assessment requirements" before a development is approved. The amendment does not state that the requirements have to be met.

Premier Morris Iemma's Labor government seems intent on allowing the coal industry to do as it pleases in NSW. There are proposals before the state government to double the coal exports from Newcastle harbour, massively increasing the state's contribution to global climate change.

[Steve Phillips is a campaigner with Rising Tide Newcastle.]