NSW Minister for Planning Brad Hazzard announced the moratorium as part of the state’s transitional arrangements in which exploration licence applications will have to be exhibited for public comment and extraction licence applications will have to be accompanied by an agricultural impact statement.
NSW Minerals Council acting chief executive officer Sue-Ern Tan questioned the effect of the freeze and changes to regional land use policy on future investment in the state’s coal mining industry.
''It is not clear what this moratorium will achieve and we will be seeking further information from the NSW government,'' she is reported as saying to the Sydney Morning Herald.
An 11-member reference group made up of representatives of business, agriculture, environment and Aboriginal groups will be established to advise on the development of the final policy.
Regional strategic plans will be established to set out a localised approach for each region within the next 12 months.
The first of the plans will target flashpoints in the Hunter Valley and Upper Hunter where horse breeders have been actively lobbying to stop coal mining developments, the Liverpool Plains and the southern highlands where prominent residents and celebrities have been voicing opposition to a proposal to develop a mine by Cockatoo Coal.
Premier Barry O'Farrell announced the end of Part 3A of the planning laws in the first meeting of the new cabinet, stating it was “time to give planning powers back to local communities”
While the full implications for coal companies are yet to be known, there are signs that the Coalition government aims to make progress with other issues that have dogged the industry.
The new state Treasurer Mike Baird spoke of maximising the value of rail and access to ports at a NSWMC forum held before the election.
“I think there’s much more we need to do in relation to that and I certainly think from a government point of view that’s where a lot of energy should be expended because that absence of productivity is holding back what we already have sitting there,” he said.
“Certainly there’s no community debate about minerals we have sitting there waiting to get out and get exported. Now we need to get on with that.”
The government’s move to scrap Part 3A was welcomed by the NSWMC, but the industry group expects the government to make some difficult decisions with its strategic planning reforms.