But Watermark project manager Paul Jackson said that while this step is significant for the company, there is still a long way to go before receiving final development approval.
“Before the EIS goes on public exhibition the department of planning must review Shenhua’s EIS to ensure it adequately addresses all the requirements outlined in the director-general’s requirements for the project,” he said.
“If the department doesn’t believe we have adequately addressed all the issues then we will need to revise our EIS to address the inadequacies and re-submit it to the department for consideration.”
Shenhua Watermark received the director-general’s requirements for the project on April 19 outlining the key areas that must be addressed as part of the environmental impact statement.
The DGRs were prepared in consultation with relevant government agencies, with input from the Watermark Community Consultative Committee and NSW Farmers Association.
The key issues that had to be addressed in the EIS include: agricultural and other land resources; water resources; biodiversity; heritage; air quality; greenhouse gases; noise, vibration and blasting; traffic and transport; visual; waste; hazards; social and economic; and rehabilitation.
The DGRs also refer to the NSW government’s new Strategic Regional Land Use Policy.
Shenhua Watermark had prepared a submission on the draft Strategic Regional Land Use Policy (SRLUP) outlining its major concerns about a number of key aspects of the draft policy, including the “gateway process”, which has the power to reject a proposed mining development prior to the full development application and environmental assessment process.
The department of planning developed a policy that set out the interim arrangements for mining proposals on strategic agricultural land until the draft SRLUP was finalised.
This policy required Shenhua to prepare an Agricultural Impact Statement as part of its development application and EIS that specifically assesses the impacts of the proposal on strategic agricultural land, having regard to the draft gateway criteria as set out in the draft SRLUP.
The Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Populations and Communities have also determined that the project will also require approval under the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.