The Greens have condemned NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and called his decision to ignore the plea of drought-stricken farmers “the height of arrogance”.
The spraying follows comments Mr Roberts made to Fairfax Media, where he referred to the 4000-page Vickery coal mine extension report as a “relatively short document”, as he knocked back the request of farmers for more time to read the submission.
Farmers say they are struggling to find time to read and understand the massive document, let alone write a response to it, when they are hand feeding cattle.
Greens resource spokesman Jeremy Buckingham wrote to Mr Roberts in September, seeking to extend the public consultation time from 42 days to 90 days, however is yet to receive a response.
See Mr Buckingham’s letter at bottom of the story
“Minister Anthony Roberts has displayed the height of arrogance in ignoring local farmers and communities and failing to give them a fair chance of responding to a 4000-page document on Vickery coal mine,” Mr Buckingham said.
“Minister Roberts has failed to acknowledge that many local folks are flat out keeping their livestock and farms alive in drought conditions.
“Local farmers and community members have asked for an reasonable extension of time to read thousands of pages of documents and make a considered response, but the Minister won’t listen.
A spokesperson for Mr Roberts said the exhibition period for the development’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) day already been extended from 28 days to 42 days.
“Given it is only an extension the EIS is a relatively short document and interested parties will have sufficient time to review,” they said.
“The planning panel will hold public hearings on the proposal within 6 weeks of it coming off exhibition – interested parties will have an opportunity to present to the panel.
“On this basis the minister is satisfied that interested parties will have sufficient time to make appropriate submissions regarding the proposal.”
However, farmers say while the proposal is deemed an extension, it was more like the modification of a mine that only existed on paper – making the report very complicated reading.
“The NSW Government doesn't care about regional communities and will use every dirty trick in the book to deliver for its miner mates,” Mr Buckingham said.
“It’s another example of the NSW Government acting in the best interests of the mining industry, while giving communities and their needs short thrift.
“The impacts of drought should not get in the way of allowing the local community from having its say on the future of mining in the region and protecting their land and water from mining.
“The Greens and local community call on Minister Roberts to do the right thing and give them an extension on submission until 12 December 2018.”