The Independent Planning Commission (IPC) Panel on the first day of the hearings. SOURCE: IPC Twitter.
THE controversial Narrabri Gas Project has drawn so many community responses that the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has extended the project’s public hearings to seven days.
The hearings were initially planned to go for five days, but after 404 people registered to speak at the hearing, it was extended a further two days with many of the speakers allowed just five minutes to ensure everyone gets to have their say.
The virtual event will allow those for and against the $3.6 billion coal seam gas project to present their views to Commissioners Steve O’Connor (Panel Chair), John Hann and Professor Snow Barlow prior to them making a final decision.
The electronic Public Hearing will be held from Monday 20 July to Saturday 25 July, and on Saturday 1 August commencing at 9.30am daily.
It will be hosted from a broadcast studio in Sydney with stakeholders presenting to the Panel via telephone or Zoom video-link.
Commissioner Barlow will join proceedings via video conference from Victoria.
The NSW Government introduced a regulation in April this year requiring all planning bodies to conduct their public meetings and hearings electronically in response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
“Ideally, the Commission would be able to hold a conventional face-to-face public hearing but this has to be different in the current public health environment.
“There’s still significant community concern, given recent developments in Victoria and other parts of NSW, about Coronavirus and the health risks associated with any large public event, particularly in a small regional community,” Sam McLean, Executive Director of the Office of the Independent Planning Commission said.
“The Commission’s main priority in complying with the regulation introduced by Government was to safely ensure broad public participation in its decision-making process.”
Last week, Commissioners O’Connor, Hann and Barlow were joined by Santos representatives and independent observers from local community groups during a site inspection for the Narrabri Gas Project.
They visited the Pilliga State Forest and surrounding areas. The Panel also met with Narrabri Shire Council while on the ground in the state’s northeast.
With just over six weeks to go before their determination on the Narrabri Gas Project is due, the Panel say the response has been overwhelming.
“We have been impressed by the response from not only the local community wanting to engage in the electronic Public Hearing process but also from those in other parts of NSW and Australia who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to have their say on this state significant development but for the electronic format,” Ms McLean said.