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NCC applauds Minister Scully for taking on the approval of renewables

7th March 2023 

The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, has today welcomed a commitment by NSW Planning Minister Paul Scully to reform the planning approvals process for renewable energy infrastructure.  

Speaking at the Smart Energy Council conference in Sydney yesterday, Minister Scully acknowledged the mounting criticism that NSW has been far too slow in approving renewables projects and showed real ambition in aiming to see almost 50 wind, solar and battery storage projects approved in NSW this year.  

Renewable investors in NSW, especially those wishing to build wind farms, have been languishing while states like Victoria and Queensland have approved impressive amounts of renewable energy – energy that will enter the grid and reduce power prices and carbon emissions.  

"We’ve been hearing for a long time that the approvals process in NSW isn’t fit for purpose" Jacqui Mumford, NCC CEO said today.

“The process sounds almost Kafkaesque, with department officials unable to tell renewable development proponents what information they will need to provide in order to see a project approved. 

“Instead of standardised questions, applications are drip fed back and forth between investors and various agencies, leading to duplication and huge delays as different departments seem unable to talk to each other and work out if an application meets their various criteria.  

“We’ve also heard that the Department of Planning is extremely understaffed, and was never going to be able to process the level of renewable projects they would necessarily receive if NSW were to meet their renewables targets.” 

However, Mumford also warned that the changes to the biodiversity protection laws would be critical in ensuring the community was confident that renewables delivered for nature and the climate.  

“We’ve heard from investors that poor biodiversity protections in NSW is a major concern. Renewable investors are incredibly sensitive to the perception that a given wind or solar farm has been built on sites of environmental significance.  

“The last thing they want is to find out that important koala habitat was cleared to make a site ready for renewables.  

“However, lax regulations and rules that allow private landholders to self-assess the ecological value of their land before clearing it creates a perverse incentive structure that risks this happening without the knowledge of a renewable developer.  

“That’s why it will be critical that a whole of government approach to planning reform is implemented. Constructive new biodiversity laws will ensure the environment movement that action on climate change is supporting our biodiversity goals. 

“We need to remove bureaucratic inefficiencies, ensure the department is adequately resourced and trained, and that NSW has strong environmental protections for all development applications.  

“Only then can we deliver the transition to renewables that benefits the community, nature and the climate.” 

Statement ends 

Media contact: Clancy Barnard 

E: [email protected]  Ph: 0438 869 332 

Note: NCC CEO Jacqui Mumford is available for comment on request 

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