NSW Independent MP Justin Field has called on the NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes to commission an independent assessment of the economic claims that the Dendrobium Expansion Project is needed to support Bluescope’s Illawarra steel works warning the credibility of the NSW Planning System was on the line and the Illawarra community faced being short changed by dubious economic claims by South 32.
Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Deputy Premier Paul Toole announced on Saturday that the NSW Government would declare the Dendrobium Expansion Project State Significant Infrastructure (SSI) handing decision making powers to the Planning Minister. This would be the first coal mining project in NSW to be given a SSI designation and followed a rejection of the project by the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) in February.
Independent NSW MP and South Coast resident Justin Field said, “The planning system in NSW risks becoming a farce without an independent economic assessment of the need for the project and its likely contribution to local steel manufacturing.
“Aside from the well understood climate impacts and risks to the drinking water catchment from the proposal, the IPC in their February decision effectively rejected the assumptions by South32 that the expansion of the Dendrobium coal mine was needed to support Bluescope’s operations in the Illawarra.
“The IPC found most of Bluescope’s coal needs came from other mines, the majority of Dendrobium coal would be exported or transported elsewhere and Bluescope’s preferred coal would not be mined by the Expansion project until almost 20 years into the project.
“Now the Minister has given himself the power to decide this project, if the Government is going to override the analysis of the IPC they need to demonstrate the economic justification through a credible independent assessment.
“It is untenable for the NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment to do that assessment because they previously backed the flawed claims by South32 that were rejected by the IPC.
“I wrote to Minister Stokes’ in April asking for such an assessment to be done. His response made clear an SSI “...assessment would include independent expert advice on a range of matters, including the economic costs and benefits of the project and consideration of the importance of a local coal supply to BlueScope Steel.” (See attached letters)
“I’m calling on Minister Stokes to ensure this commitment is met by commissioning either the NSW Natural Resources Commission or a similarly credible Independent organisation to complete a public and transparent review of the economic claims by South32 in a future project proposal should it come," Mr Field said.