A call has been made to scrap the NSW government’s regulations on how mining companies consult with communities after it was revealed one woman was employed as the independent chair of 15 different community consultative committees (CCC) by seven different mining companies, and her payments have not been disclosed.
The Greens have also revealed that the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) and current Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) member Garry West, a former Nationals MP and former mining minister, chairs four CCCs for undisclosed sums.
Greens NSW spokesperson on mining, Jeremy Buckingham, has called on the government to reform the regulations around mining CCCs, saying the Department of Planning Guidelines for CCCs made it clear that payments to the ‘independent chair’ should be disclosed on the website:
Mr West chairs the Integra Vale, Ulan coal, Moorlaben coal, and the BHP Caroona CCCs for undisclosed sums.
The guidleines state that ‘if such fees or expenses are paid, then the company should indicate that this is occurring on the company’s website, so that the broader community remains fully informed.’
Mr Buckingham said ‘‘I cannot find a single instance where a resource company has publicly declared the payments to the ‘independent chair’ of their CCC.
‘These companies are in breach of the planning department’s rules,’ he said
‘Undeclared payments directly from the mining company undermine the independence of the chair and the community’s confidence in the CCC.
‘The current system means that the community often perceives the “independent chair” as simply a stooge of the mining company.
‘The regulations should be changed so that the “independent chair” is appointed and paid by the government, not by the mining companies. The chair’s payment should be publicly disclosed by the government.
‘The Greens want reform of the CCCs because communities have lost all faith in them and see them more as a facade on consultation that simply does the companies bidding and ties up the community.
‘It’s an outrageous conflict of interest that former Nationals MP Garry West can be paid by coal companies to chair CCCs, and then also have a role as a decision maker with the PAC and JRPP.
‘Garry West is notoriously pro-coal and was on the PAC that approved the controversial Maules Creek coal mine.
‘The government must clean up with part of the mining sector. The people of NSW are sick of corruption and cronyism. The Greens will continue our push for clean politics,’ he said.