Newcastle Inquiry_07The Government is currently accepting submissions on Draft Hunter Regional Plan and Growing Hunter City Plan , plans that are intended to shape the future of the Hunter region for decades to come.

Submissions close on Thursday 24 March and we would encourage you to make your voice heard.

This is an important opportunity for you to make your voice heard. Will the Hunter be stuck servicing the dying fossil fuel economies of the 20th Century or will it be a centre for sustainable jobs in renewable energy, regional tourism, viticulture, environmental protection, innovation and sustainable agriculture?

Much of this depends on solid regional planning that plans for much more for the Hunter and Newcastle than this shoddy planning from the NSW Government.

You can use it to make a quick submission, or as a starting point for your own: 

Draft Hunter Regional Plan

  • The focus on coal and CSG extraction means the Hunter is inextricably tied to a dying twentieth century fossil fuel industry rather than being steered toward a modern, sustainable future
  • The draft inappropriately prioritises economic considerations over environmental and social considerations. Ecologically sustainable development must be the foundation of any regional plan
  • One third of the 87 page report is focussed on coal mining and coal seam gas. Emphasis is on economic benefits of mining and fossil fuel extraction and almost silent on the impacts of mining on: non-mining industries; the health and well-being of communities; air pollution; ground water impacts; biodiversity; and critical habitats.
  • By prioritising coal and coal seam gas over so much of the Hunter Valley in circumstances where global fossil fuel prices are at ongoing historic lows and the rest of the world is moving away from these polluting fuel sources to address climate change, this has the effect of sterilizing large parts of the region from more productive and sustainable industries.
  • There is no discussion of impact of prolonging/intensifying coal and CSG extraction on Australia’s commitment to actively contribute to keep global warming to well below 2 degrees
  • The draft is silent on the views of the community, failing to mention a 2014 Australia Institute survey where 83% of respondents indicated that they did not want to see the mining industry expand, and 41% wanted to see it decrease or phased out
  • Aboriginal Heritage has been treated as an afterthought, with no solid plans outlined in the report to preserve Culture and Heritage.
  • Environment preservations have predictably been treated as a low priority for the State Government, with the report stating that they will encourage bio-banking to ensure conservation.
  • Direct impacts on forests under the draft plan are very high. The maps provided show that coal mining titles cover most of the State Forests in the region, meaning that the plan directly threatens many thousands of hectares of plantation and native forest.
  • The plan flags the use of a risk model for decisions around water quality, rather than strict rules in place protecting the waterways of the region, and in particular the oyster industry.
  • Climate change considerations are minimal, with no detailed plan to cap emissions to keep global temperature rises below 2 degrees, or to plan for climate ready communities.

Draft Plan for Growing Hunter City

  • The Growing Hunter City draft Plan is little more than a device to cement the continued operation and growth of a piece of unpopular infrastructure for the next 20years.
  • It has no relationship to the other key proposed change in regional governance which is the government’s proposed merger of Newcastle and Port Stephens Councils. Having two concurrent and contradictory proposals for the management of the Greater Newcastle area looks very much like one arm of government having no idea what the others are doing.
  • The plans main focus is in  propping up a privatised coal port to maximise the export of low cost coal from financially challenged coal mines
  • The draft Plan is largely silent on the fact that Newcastle residents in very large numbers object to the health impacts associated with coal dust and the impact of coal dust on biodiversity in wetlands adjacent to the Coal Chain route
  • While there is some modest funding available, it is nowhere sufficient to address public transport and other infrastructure needs. The approximately $340M from the 98year lease of Port Newcastle is to revitalise Newcastle City. That is less than 20% of the $1.75B which the lease sold for.
  • The draft provides no specific plans, undertakings or proposals to build better connections between the city and urban areas, it also ignores the fact that in the past year the government has actively destroyed the rail connection in central Newcastle. This must be restored to ensure connectivity
  • Beyond high level observations about the importance of planning for infrastructure delivery the document only envisages that the government will monitor development activity and coordinate and prioritise infrastructure delivery
  • The plan is overwhelmingly lacking both in vision and specificity

Short, personalised written submissions are also very compelling and can be very useful to pressure the Government on important community concern.