It appears that the Government has withdrawn these proposed bills, which leaves the existing Act of 1979 (as amended) as the Act covering development in NSW. This is a very significant victory for the Better Planning Network (BPN), which the Society joined soon after its inception. The BPN campaign has been a credit to resident action. It has been ahead of the game the entire time, with a strong and imaginative media presence. It has remained true to its principles, but moderate in its tactics and language. Corinne Fisher, the convenor who spoke at the meeting organised jointly by the Society and Pyrmont Action last year, and at the Society’s AGM in 2013, deserves special praise for her passionate but carefully argued and modulated advocacy.
It is appropriate that we should celebrate our achievement. However, we should bear in mind that winning the battle does not mean we have yet won the war. Planning Minister Brad Hazzard is committed to satisfying the demands of the developer lobby, to which the State Government is deeply indebted. He has already said he will try to achieve by stealth – using the discredited powers the previous government gave the Minister – what he has failed to achieve by argument. We should continue to offer the BPN our strongest support to achieve better planning outcomes.
For the moment, the focus seems to have shifted more firmly to Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD), always a mainstay of the BPN approach. The areas of greatest concern are Coal Seam Gas extraction, especially in major agricultural regions such as the Liverpool Plains and the irrigation areas of the south; Longwall Coal Mining within the catchment areas of the Sydney Basin; and Open Cut Coal Mining in the Hunter Valley. There are a variety of concerns, but the major one is the impact on water quality and availability, in a continent which is notoriously dry and subject to serious fluctuations in climate. Thus we are likely to see alliances with rural movements. The campaign has already led to some strange bedfellows. Do not be surprised if there are more.