Independent NSW MP, Justin Field, will use the sitting of the Legislative Council on 12 May to push to disallow a new regulation introduced by NSW Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, that will allow one of the most controversial projects in NSW, the Narrabri Gas Project, to be decided through an online hearing.
The regulation gazetted today will enable the State’s Independent Planning Commission (IPC) to conduct public hearings electronically while the COVID-19 restrictions are in place.
Mr Field said “This is a slap in the face to the Narrabri community and the tens of thousands of NSW citizens who have opposed Santos’ project to put 850 gas wells in the Pilliga Forest. There is no way an online hearing can adequately give those concerned about this project the ability to have their say.
“Many Narrabri farmers and locals risk having their land and their livelihoods destroyed by the coal seam gas industry - they need to be given an opportunity to tell their stories in person to the Commissioners, not over a Zoom conference call.
“I will move to disallow this regulation when the Legislative Council sits on 12 May and I urge the Labor Opposition and crossbench members who I know have concerns about this project to support a disallowance.
“We can act to ensure the community is given an opportunity to fully participate in a future public hearing. If that means consideration of this project needs to be delayed a few months, then so be it. This is a decision that will live with the community for generations, fast tracking the decision under the cover of a short-term health crisis is wrong.
“It is clear in the state’s planning laws that the IPC must conduct a ‘public hearing’ and I challenge anyone who considers an online meeting is enough to meet this standard.
“The fact that a hearing is being conducted removes the community's future right to challenge the merits of the decision, so the process needs to be rigorous and every opportunity must be afforded to participants to have their say and to challenge what is being said by the company and others.
“Minister Stokes prides himself on upholding fair process, but this decision is anything but. The clear perception is that he has given in to pressure from the mining lobby and members of the Coalition Government who are intent on pushing this disastrous project ahead at all costs.
“The silence of the National Party Leader and Deputy Premier John Barilaro is deafening on this matter. He should be standing up for farmers and regional NSW and reflecting their concerns about this project. Instead he is busy preparing to jump to federal politics and has left the Narrabri community high and dry on this issue,” Mr Field said.