The merger of the NSW departments of environment and planning presents an opportunity to put the environment and local communities at the heart of state’s planning system, according to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
‘While there is a serious risk that the interests of the environment and local communities will be further subordinated to those of the powerful development and mining lobbies, this need not be the case,’ NCC campaigns director Kate Smolski said.
‘The merger also presents an opportunity for the government to enhance environmental protection and deliver on its pre-election promise to give communities more say in planning decisions.
‘While internal administrative arrangements can have a bearing on environmental protection outcomes and planning decisions, strong legislation and adequate funding are key.
‘Clean air, water and healthy landscapes are critical for the future of NSW. We call on the Baird government to ensure the environment department is fully funded, that environmental laws are strengthened, and that the community is engaged constructively in reforming the planning system.
‘The government’s performance over the past three years has been characterised by inaction, broken promises and backward steps on many important environmental issues.
‘It now has only 11 months until the next election to demonstrate it can chart a sustainable future for our state.
‘There are many ways the government can quickly improve its record in these areas and we look forward to working constructively with the new ministers and the department to achieve that.’