(Debate on Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2017, Tuesday 10 October 2017, Legislative Assembly NSW Parliament)
The Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) Bill restores approval for the Springvale coal mine extension after the Court of Appeal ruled that it was incorrect, and imposes lower water protections for all mines in Sydney’s drinking water catchment.
This bill should not be rushed through: it has serious implications on the quality of Sydney’s drinking water and the ecosystems that support it. The government says that the state’s energy supplies are at risk, but according to its own alleged worst-case-scenario, the threat is at least three months away and waiting a week to debate and vote on this bill would not make any difference. Members should be given the opportunity to consult with experts and verify whether this bill is necessary and whether it is the right way to safeguard the state’s energy sources.
With the information I have, I am not convinced that this bill is right response to the court case. I am especially concerned that it goes beyond securing energy supply to facilitating development in our catchments by eroding important environmental tests.
The government tells us that the Mount Piper power station, which supplies around 11 per cent of the state’s grid electricity and relies entirely on the Springvale coal mine, has only three months worth of coal stockpiled and this is why approval for the mine’s expansions must be legislated urgently.
But The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the environment group 4Nature says it has evidence that Mount Piper has enough coal for the coming summer, which it planned to present in appeal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court.
I also understand that the court ruling would not result in the instant closure of mining operations with negotiations occurring to continue mining for months.
The mine has been discharging millions of litres of untreated waste water into the Coxs River and expanding the mine would further increase the risk to upland swamps that support threatened species. Upland swamps filter contaminants before water reaches catchments and are vital to their health.
Mining is a heavy-duty industrial activity that can have devastating permanent impacts on water systems.
See full debate HERE.