Click image or go to this link to read latest status.
Health Infrastructure NSW have (in record time) completed and lodged a part EIS for Concept Stage 1 of the Hospital. It purports to meet the SEARs criteria recently set by DoPE NSW. As at 26th October 2018, it remained in pre-exhibition status.
HINSW is also concurrently preparing a Part 5 of the EP&A Act Activity Proposal with a separate Statement of Environmental Effects which will NOT require DoPE consent, or public comment or exhibition. This is to enable so-called “preliminary” works which will ensure the project can well under way and committed prior to the above SSD Consent Determination whose key purpose is supposed to be to decide whether the can proceed on State Significant Farmland at all. Yet the government continues to deny it is treating both the planning process and the community’s opinions with contempt.
Despite three terms of NP rule in the electorate, the government promises of hospital upgrades have remained largely unfulfilled. The sudden high degree of urgency to have excavators digging behind billboards is driven by a need to correct the record before the state election in March 2019. To achieve this, the government has appointed itself both the proponent and consent authority, and already declared the date it will approve the project. It is also declaring that it intends to disregard any petitions, objections, impediments, or adverse impacts. You will hear again and again the words “streamlined” and “fast-tracked” used as excuses to avoid the Health and Planning Departments’ own published policies and procedures designed ensure giant projects are properly examined before hasty Ministerial rubber-stamping.
You can click to view some of these key policies:
- Community and Stakeholder Engagement
- Community Guide to Environmental Impact Assessment
- Scoping an Environmental Impact Statement
or view a good summary of obligations at this page. Unfortunately you won`t recognize most of these processes occurring this time in the Tweed Shire.
The recently amended legislation which is intended to allow this non-disclosure of significant impacts before starting work on major projects can be found in the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979. (See Divisions 4.4, 4.7, & 5.20) and in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (See Division 3A, Division 6, and Schedule 2)
In the chart below is the likely design path to consent. It refers to a Staged or Concept Development Application, where assessing the full impacts of final development can be postponed until work has commenced on Stage 1, All approvals can be issued by Ministers of the Crown. Public objection opportunities are limited and are ultimately accepted or rejected by Ministerial ruling. After determination, contracts for construction of Stage 1 Siteworks may then be issued. This approach locks the project in, irrespective of subsequently discovered flaws & deficiencies.
Despite the rush to the state poll, it is still important that the Government be held to its own published standards of conduct.
Closer inspection will disclose that opportunities for the public to object are deliberately limited. The State Government has made itself simultaneously the development proponent, decider of the issues to be covered in any EIS, preparer of the EIS, reviewer of the EIS, sole development determination authority, and sole appeal authority. The Concept Staging of development in any case allows it to commence a State Significant Development long before the second & final full impact EIS is available to the public. And the choice of site and examination of the consequences of relocation are purely at the Minister’s discretion without prior public consultation, and made exempt from any public scrutiny at all, unless he/she so chooses.
As a late addition to this already non-participative process, the Government has recently announced it will perform substantial siteworks in advance of receiving any Development Consent by exploiting a loophole in the legislation and performing them under Part 5 of the EP&A Act. Part 5 allows a public sector applicant to decide for itself internally whether a project is justified and whether it will have adverse environmental impacts. It intends to use this device to commit to constructing the largest public project ever undertaken in the Tweed Shire before it has any approval to use the farmland for State Significant Development.
This travesty of a democratic process is this government’s version of inclusive and participative decision-making.