Calls for planning process shake-up after Anglo’s Drayton South mine rejected

There are calls for the planning framework in NSW to be overhauled following the rejection of Anglo’s Drayton South mine, which could cost 500 people their jobs.

Yesterday, the Planning and Assessment Commission rejected the mine in order to protect the nearby Coolmore and Darley thoroughbred studs.

The Drayton South expansion was to be a replacement for Drayton mine which is set to run out of coal in 2017.

The 500-person strong workforce now face an uncertain future, and Anlgo have previously said the security of the jobs relied on the extension being approved.

PAC said the project had the potential to adversely impact two  internationally renowned studs, and has recommended the mine be refused.

“The project has not demonstrated that it will not adversely impact on equine health and the operations of the Coolmore and Darley horse studs,” PAC said.

“The economic benefits of the project do not outweigh the risk of losing Coolmore and Darley and the potential demise of the equine industry in the area with flow‐on impacts on the viticultural tourism industries.”

PAC also said the project was not in the public interest.

However the decision has been slammed by the industry who say the planning process is broken.

The CEO of Anglo’s coal business Seamus French said the PAC determination flew in the face of the NSW Planning and Environment Department’s report which stated the project was in the public interest.

 “The government’s own experts have been overruled by an eight week exercise,” French said.

“The current planning process, which deals with perception above scientific fact, is damaging communities and threatening NSW’s investment potential. This process, through which decision making is delegated to a small group of representatives rather than the elected government, is a serious concern.”

French said the company had submitted a new mine plan which it said made a number of important compromises so it could co-exist with the horse breeders.

 “Only one side has been willing to compromise and the other has made it abundantly clear of their intent to put a stop to mining,” French said.

“When the horse studs came into the Hunter Valley it was completely transparent that this was already a mining area with plans for an extension, and they have since invested millions and grown on the back of infrastructure made possible due to the mining industry. We find it difficult to accept it is now an ‘us or them’ situation.”

Muswellbrook Mayor Martin Rush is also disappointed at PAC’s decision and wants to see the planning process overhauled, ABC reported.

"What we need in New South Wales is a planning assessment system which brings some of these decisions up front and gives the coal industry and their employees and other land users with which they compete certainty.

"The only way to do that is to do what every other industry has available to them and that's a staged release plan for coal mining."

Some say PAC’s decision will send the wrong message to investors.

NSW Minerals Council boss Stephen Galilee said the outcome made a “mockery of the claim that NSW is open for business”.

Galilee took a firm swipe at the government for shirking its responsibility in the decision making process.

“Delegating state significant decisions to an unelected body like the PAC is a failure of leadership from the NSW Government. It's an attempt to avoid the responsibility that comes with being in office, and it's a betrayal of the working people who will have to live with the consequences of these poor outcomes,” Galilee said.

“The NSW Government knows the planning system is broken, but has failed to fix it. In fact, since being elected, the NSW Government has made the system worse.

“Instead of standing by and allowing hundreds of jobs to go, it's time for the NSW Government to show some leadership and take back control of the planning system before more jobs are lost.” 

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