From the Secretariat

By on March 31, 2017

Changes to Community engagement

DR ELIZABETH GIBSON, General Manager of CMPA reports on the changes to the Community engagement process.

The Minister for Resources, The Hon Wade Noonan, MP made an announcement on 24 February 2017 concerning the proposal to create an open-cut gold mine at Big Hill which was rejected by the Victorian Government in 2014 due to health and environment concerns.

The process has now been overhauled and ERR will establish an independent expert panel to conduct information sessions, gather written submissions, hold public hearings and make recommendations – reflecting the advice of the 2014 Environment Effects Statement (EES) assessment.

The Victorian Government is also establishing a grants program to fund community legal education and assistance services for local citizens and groups who want to take part in the Big Hill proposal assessment. Why are we talking about mines, here? Well the State Government intends to fund two other projects with one of them being a proposed quarry undergoing an EES.

The intent of the Government is to remove allegations of the process (EES) being biased. Two grants will be made available to each proposal up to $40K and are intended for a legal representative (Community Advisor) to assist the community with understanding the process. Funding will be available for eligible not-for-profit community groups to enable them to obtain legal advice and representation during environmental assessment and associated public inquiry processes. Additionally, the regulator will fund Community Education workshops, clinics and resources will be delivered locally to community members where there are major new mining and quarrying proposals.

This process for community engagement will be reviewed after two years. Of interest, is if there are more than 3 EES proposals in this time and, hence, whether the proponent would be required to fund the Community Advisor. Of more importance is, where is the advocate within Government for the extractives industry? An industry that is critical to the economy of Victoria through the supply of construction materials for public and private infrastructure including first home buyers.

The CMPA understands the necessity for community engagement: that the community is heard and respected, which allows for the extractive industry’s social licence to operate. However, it appears that the State Government is wanting ever increasing levels of community engagement no matter what the detriment to the extractives industry.

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