Backdoor bastardry as minister gives Rocky Hill coal mine a second chance

Friday, February 2, 2018 | Jeremy Buckingham

Greens NSW resources spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today said that Planning Minister Anthony Roberts decision to allow merits appeal for the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine near Gloucester was an act of bastardry that gave the mine a backdoor route to approval after the proponent GRL Resources filed an application to appeal the refusal of their mine in the Land and Environment Court before Christmas.

Normally the Planning Minister instructs the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) to hold a ‘public hearing’, which under the Act extinguishes the right to file for a merits review of the planning decision with the courts – limiting appeals to procedural review only.  However, in the case of the Rocky Hill coal mine, the minister did not instruct the PAC to hold a public hearing and therefore merits review is accessible.

“This is an act of bastardry from the planning minister which effectively gives GRL Resources a backdoor way to get their coal mine approved.  It’s instructive that the Minister extinguishes merit review for most mining projects, but has chosen not do so in this case,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The referral letter to the PAC explicitly states that the minister decided to allow merits review because the mine was recommended for refusal by the Department of Planning.

“The inconsistent application of merits review rights effectively means there is one rule for the community and another rule for the mining industry.

“No doubt the minister would prefer the court approve the mine, rather than the government given that the seat of Upper Hunter is highly marginal.

“The Greens believe merit appeal rights should be restored for all planning projects, regardless of whether the minister instructs for a public hearing or not. The selective use of this power only reinforces the case to abolish it.”