PAC accused of rubber stamping T4, as council GM welcomes jobs boost

 

The Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) has been accused of ignoring residents' concerns regarding health and the environment, after giving final approval to a $5 billion coal loader for Newcastle.

The loader, known as T4, will be operated by Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) and has twice been considered by the Planning Department and PAC.

It has been approved with stringent conditions, after being declared in the public interest.

It is not expected to be built anytime soon, with the coal market in a slide.

A five-year lapse date has been applied to the development consent, despite PWCS wanting 10.

Mr Osborne said all the evidence indicated it should have been rejected.

"I think most people in the community would have recognised that the Planning Assessment Commission was always going to approve this development," he said.

"They've really ignored the evidence of the impact on local residents, in terms of health and in terms of dust, and they've totally ignored the issue of climate change.

"Really, they've just given an opportunity for a multi-national corporation to land bank part of our port."

Mr Osborne is scathing of the PAC.

"The Planning Assessment Commission process is a farce," he said.

"The majority, the vast majority, more than 95 per cent of projects that go before it are approved.

"I mean, if they are doing their proper job they should be doing the planning.

"And that means looking to the future and the future is not in coal."

Council welcomes boost to jobs and economy

Newcastle Council negotiated a $12 million developer contribution deal with PWCS as part of its plans for T4, after originally being offered $500,000.

Council's general manager Ken Gouldthorp said he welcomes the loader.

"It's good news not purely because of the $12 million, but I think it's good news for the city," he said.

"I mean, the fact is that if this project proceeds, and it can proceed now, of course that creates jobs in the local community."

Mr Gouldthorp said the loader will mean jobs and a boost to the economy.

"It will only proceed when the demand is there, but it basically allows Port Waratah Coal Services now to commence that construction, when and if it's required," he said.

"I think it's a very good result all around."

PWCS chief executive Hennie du Plooy said the company is now considering its options.

"I expect that there will be a range of things that we would have to do and consider," he said.

"Some of those are actions that we would have to take, and plans that we would have to develop within a two-year period.

"And then, if we did assess that the project was likely to be required, there are actions and work that we would have to start within that five-year period."

Community groups appalled at approval

The Hunter's Coal Terminal Action Group (CTAG) has described the T4 approval as a shameful example of the current 'tick-a-box' approval process.

It has also slammed the consent conditions attached to the approval of the additional coal loader.

CTAG spokeswoman Fee Moseley said the conditions are 'toothless distractions'.

"Communities living with the negative impacts of the existing terminals, and who now will be forced to suffer the impacts of another coal terminal will be outraged by this decision," she said.

The decision has also been slammed by John Hayes from the Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield Group.

"Approval flies in the face of all the community concerns about our health from additional pollution from a massive increase in export capacity," he said.

"Thousands more coal trains coming down the valley to the port, and hundreds more ship and tug movements in the harbour, will add significantly to the already heavy coal, dust and diesel particles in the Newcastle air, that we breathe each day."

Environmental Justice Australia researcher James Whelan said if built, T4 will increase respiratory and cardiovascular ailments, in an area that already registers particle pollution levels well over the national standard.

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