Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) Act 2017 (NSW)

Tuesday 17 October 2017 @ 10.35 a.m. | Legal Research

The NSW Government has assented to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) Act 2017 (NSW) (‘the Act’) on 13 October 2017. The Act will amend the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) (‘the amended Act’) in order to make changes to the water quality test for extensions to developments.

Background

The Act is a response to the Court of Appeal’s decision in 4nature Incorporated v Centennial Springvale Pty Ltd [2017] NSWCA 191 to close the extensions to the Springvale coalmine, following a challenge by the activist group 4nature. In August 2017, the Court ruled that the Springvale coalmine’s expansion approval did not pass the test in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) which requires that new developments and extensions to existing developments have a neutral or beneficial effect on Sydney’s drinking water. Applying this test, the Court found that it was found to be operating without a valid licence.

Key Amendments

In response to the Court's decision, the Act amends the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) in order to:

  • Expressly validate the approval of Springvale’s extensions, meaning that the mine will continue its operations.
  • Clarify the water quality test, changing it to provide approval where the extension doesn’t pollute the drinking water any more than the original development did prior to the extension.

In his second reading speech, Don Harwin MP said:

“This bill provides assurance to all parties and will remove the significant uncertainty hanging over the electricity market—indeed, the whole national electricity market. It will provide a clear signal that New South Wales believes in removing risks to electricity security this summer. By introducing this bill, the Government has acted swiftly to address job uncertainty and secure the coal supply to the Mount Piper power station, but I firmly believe that this ultimately is a win for the environment and a win for Sydney's drinking water catchment.”

Responses to Act

Prior to assent, President of 4Nature, Andrew Cox stated:

“Not only does the bill end the final stage of the court process for the Springvale mine but for all developments in the drinking water catchment, it overrides the important principle of continuous improvement for polluters.”

The Energy Spokesman for the Greens, Jeremy Buckingham stated:

“A perverse outcome of the legislation is that it will penalise new environmentally sensitive development over older, more polluting developments. New developments will be held to a much higher standard than the extension of existing developments.”

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.

Sources:

Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) Act 2017 (NSW), Bill and second reading speeches, as published on TimeBase LawOne.

Michael Slezak, 'NSW to weaken water quality test for extensions to mines,' (The Guardian Australia) 10 October 2017.

Peter Hannam, Sean Nicholls, ''Get yourself a friend': Government defends bill to weaken water protection' (Sydney Morning Herald) 11 October 2017.

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