Our Port Our Future Please Act Now!

Friday December 6th 2013:  Message to Members and Supporters from Cr Michael Osborne

NEW STATE ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY FOR NEWCASTLE PORT 2013

Please take action (IT’S EASY).

Cut and paste the form letter below, or write in your own words reasons for opposing the new SEPP for Newcastle Port – on line submissions can be made at:

http://planspolicies.planning.nsw.gov.au/index.pl?action=view_job&job_id=6289

Listed below are reasons to object to the new SEPP for Newcastle Port which the State Government has just announced,  unreasonably only allowing a very short timeframe for community consideration (Exhibition closes Dec 16).

You can access the proposed new SEPP at the above link.  Please feel free to add your own comments to the form letter below, and follow directions for on line submissions on the Dept. Planning webpage.

It’s in the interests of all Novocastrians and our regional communities to state the following to the Department of Planning and infrastructure –

RE:  State Environmental Planning Policy (Port Botany and Port Kembla) Amendment (Port of Newcastle) 2013

I object to the proposed State Environmental Planning Policy (Port Botany and Port Kembla) Amendment (Port of Newcastle) 2013 for the following reasons.

1. The short time frame allocated by the Government to comment is insufficient and unfair, indicating  bias in the decision making process.  The new SEPP should be re-exhibited in the new year allowing a 6 week time frame for comment.

2. The cumulative impacts of present Newcastle Port development and industrial operation must be assessed before the Port is leased to private enterprise. Acceptable thresholds of the various existing and future impacts of the Port include:

  • air quality impacts and impacts from noise in the residential suburbs surrounding the Port
  • water quality impacts in the Hunter River
  • groundwater impacts
  • impacts on the adjacent internationally-listed Ramsar wetlands
  • human health impacts on workers and nearby residents, including the transport of goods to and from the Port (including the transport of coal through residential suburbs)
  • risk from the co-location of industries in the Port (including ammonium nitrate production, liquid fuel storage and coal stockpiles)
  • monitor and report on environmental health and to instigate appropriate measures to ensure the protection of citizens (including addressing contamination and toxic residue as a result of past industrial practices)

Such matters require an open and transparent Commission of Inquiry before amendments to the existing SEPP are considered.

Planning for the Port should be comprehensive and based on sound principles. Leasing the Port to private enterprise before this has occurred is irresponsible and poses unacceptable social, environmental and economic risks to the community.

3. To relax the development approval system, by way of self assessment and raising the threshold of development requiring government approval (and therefore community comment) from $30 million to $100 million cannot be justified without consideration of the existing cumulative impacts of Newcastle Port development (see point 2 above).

In particular, our international obligations under the Ramsar Treaty must be honoured by informed, transparent and consultative processes. Self assessment of dredging work in particular is an inappropriate and high risk proposal and should be rejected.

4. The economic benefits to Newcastle, the Hunter region and the State of leasing the Port to private enterprise has not been established by the government.  Independent, transparent evaluation of the benefits and costs of the proposal have not been produced.  This situation is unacceptable.  The proposed new SEPP should be rejected until the government has carried out comprehensive consultative processes.

Qualification of the benefits and costs of the proposal must be established and considered.  Open decision making processes must be followed.

Newcastle Port is the economic hub of the Hunter Region.  Its’ planning and operation should benefit all stakeholders.  Government has the responsibility to minimise risk and ensure sound management and planning occurs. The SEPP proposal fails to ensure this, rather it is designed to facilitate the “transition to private long-term lease operation” and “stream-line processes” for the benefit of a new operator.

Despite consistent community representation to government over the last few years stating the above listed concerns, government has failed to appropriately consider present and future options and management considerations related to Newcastle Port activity.  As a result local ecology, human health, social cohesion and economic robustness are compromised.

The SEPP proposal for Port of Newcastle should be rejected.

Yours faithfully,

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