Bigger fines for mines planning breaches

Breaches of NSW planning guidelines will attract hefty fines under new legislative changes announced by planning minister Rob Stokes.

Planning penalty notices will be increased “five-fold” in order to give the Department of Planning and Environment greater power to issue on-the-spot fines.

New powers will allow the department to issue fines of up to $15,000 to companies found to be in breach of development consents for high impact industry, such as coal mines.

The current maximum on-the-spot fine is $3000.

The department will also double the number of compliance officers in Greater Sydney, and has already established new teams in the Hunter Valley and Queanbeyan.

A departmental statement indicated the move would give communities more confidence that high impact developments would follow approval conditions under strict enforcement.

Stokes said approval conditions relating to noise, dust, traffic, waste management and other concerns were in place to ensure responsible company operations.

“These conditions are crucial to striking the balance between the significant benefits major projects can bring in terms of job creation and investment, and minimising the likelihood of potential impacts on communities,” Stokes said.

“Compliance officers work with the community, industry and councils to investigate potential breaches of conditions and carry out enforcement where necessary.

Stokes also emphasised the importance of information from the community in co-ordinating investigations.

“Information from community members is an important way we learn about issues to investigate.”

In the past year the department has handed out a total of $5 million worth of court enforced penalities for planning breaches, up from $1.1 million in 2013.

In the past financial year the department has conducted 700 compliance activities and 195 enforcements, however doubling the size of the compliance team will increase those numbers in the next year.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.