Environment groups are calling for more certainty about environment protection and public
participation on the State Government's proposed new planning system.
Acting Chair of the Nature Conservation Council [NCC] Rob Pallin, said if the Government is
serious about environmental protection then it needs to ensure that the new planning system
maintains ecologically sustainable development as the criteria for proposed development.
“Although the Green Paper suggests that environmental considerations and natural resource
management will be integrated into strategic planning, the Government gives little indication of
how this is to be achieved. Guidelines won't work – we'll need legal protections,” Mr Pallin said.
“We can't run the risk of environmental considerations losing out to economic interests when that is
against the environmental sustainability that is in everyone's interests.”
“We do not expect our member groups will support limiting participation and comment to the
strategic planning stage,”Mr Pallin said.
The Total Environment Centre's [TEC] Jeff Angel, said that while the new planning system attempts
to improve public participation, it is still skewed towards developers' interests.
“The public's involvement at the development assessment stage will be greatly curtailed by the
proposal to have consultation on strategic planning and introduce code based assessment, with a
presumption in favour of a right to develop where a proposal meets agreed requirements. It's
important that over the next several months we road test if this system will satisfy the community or
simply be a recipe for ongoing conflict,” Mr Angel said.
“However we are pleased to see the Government pursuing recommendations by NCC,
Environmental Defenders Office of NSW and TEC to introduce a Public Participation Charter in the
new planning system.”
“We see the charter setting out key principles for community engagement that would underpin how
public participation was carried out. It would also require planning authorities to prepare
community engagement strategies in accordance with those same principles,” he said.
Mr Angel said the planning system should play an important role in helping to address many
pressing environmental challenges, including loss and fragmentation of native vegetation and
wildlife habitat, conversion and loss of strategic agricultural land, degradation of rivers, wetlands
and water catchments, urban sprawl, traffic congestion, air pollution and waste, and carbon
pollution and impacts of climate change.
“The recognition by the Green Paper of the need to integrate environmental considerations and
natural resource management much earlier in the planning system, and to provide for assessment of
cumulative impacts, is the starting point,” he said.
“NCC and TEC hope to be strongly involved in the next step of the process - the drafting of the
White Paper- to ensure that provisions for the proper protection of the environment and genuine and
meaningful public participation are developed.”