The current assessment process for coal mines in NSW is totally unfair, unbalanced and stacked in favour of mining companies, according to NSW Shadow Minister for the Central Coast and State Member for Wyong, Mr David Harris.
In the NSW Legislative Assembly, Mr Harris said he had “fought a potential coalmine in my electorate for just over 15 years now”.
“In 2010, the Labor Government knocked back a mine, but the proponents resubmitted exactly the same application, which is now being reconsidered,” Mr Harris said.
“When members of the mining industry do not like a decision, they keep going and going until someone throws his hands in the air and gives them permission to operate,” he said.
“The guidelines say that any application should be assessed in the public interest, and in light of the likely impacts of the development, including environmental impacts on the natural and built environments, as well as social and economic impacts in the locality.
“The assessment process works in terms of ‘How can we make this mine happen?’
“That has certainly been the experience of people in my electorate.
“I have a Private Member’s Bill before the House to excise an area in Wyong to protect the water catchment.
“The Wallarah 2 coal mine is proposed to go right underneath the water catchment that supplies water to 350,000 people.
“You would think it would be a no-brainer to protect that area, but the Government is drawing this issue out, even though the members opposite made a hand-on-heart promise in the 2011 election to pass legislation, if necessary, to stop the mine.
“As soon as they got into government, they rolled over with the mining industry so that we have to continue the fight.
“I must admit that our side of politics has not covered itself in glory either.
“When I was elected for the 2007 to 2011 term, I fought my own side with respect to this mine until I was able to convince the then Minister, Tony Kelly, and Premier, Kristina Keneally, to knock it back.
“But, unfortunately, Barry O’Farrell did not keep his promise and we are still debating the issue today.
“If one really wanted to assess the Government’s commitment in this area, one would look at the legislation that was passed last year, which saw the fines for people protesting against mines increase, with the addition of a possible jail sentence, and the fines for mining companies that do the wrong thing, such as cause environmental damage and lie, decreased to ridiculously low levels.
“If a government is committed to ensuring that mining companies do the right thing, it should ensure that they have not just social responsibility but financial responsibility as well.
“We know that with the Wallarah 2 Wyong Coal project.
“These are $120 companies, and when they are finished, they walk away; they walk off the land and there is no-one to chase in relation to rehabilitation and all those sorts of issues.
“The Government needs to fix that,” Mr Harris said.
Feb 23, 2017
NSW Legislative Assembly
David Harris, Member for Wyong