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Gateway Assessment

The Gateway assessment is an independent, upfront scientific assessment of the impact of new State significant mining and coal seam gas proposals on strategic agricultural land and its associated water resources.

Strategic agricultural land comprises:

  • Biophysical strategic agricultural land – land that has the best quality soil and water resources and is capable of sustaining high levels of productivity
  • Critical Industry Cluster land – a concentration of significant agricultural industries potentially impacted by coal seam gas or mining development.

The Mining and Petroleum Gateway Panel has been established to oversee the Gateway assessment process, which must occur before an applicant can submit certain mining and petroleum related development applications.

The Gateway assessment applies to the 2.8 million hectares of strategic agricultural land which has been mapped across NSW, as well as the equine and viticulture critical industry clusters in the Upper Hunter region.

Mining and Petroleum Gateway Panel

The Mining and Petroleum Gateway Panel is an independent body constituted under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007 (commonly known as the Mining SEPP). It was first established on 4 October 2013 and is now a subcommittee of the Independent Planning Commission NSW.

The Panel is one of the key elements of the NSW Government's Strategic Regional Land Use Policy, a suite of initiatives to better protect the State's agricultural and water resources from the potential impacts of mining and coal seam gas activities.

Roles of the Gateway Panel

The principal role of the Panel is to assess the agricultural impacts of State significant mining or coal seam gas (CSG) proposals located on Strategic Agricultural Land before a development application is lodged. These assessments are conducted against targeted scientific criteria relating to agricultural and water impacts.

When the project is located on biophysical strategic agricultural land, the project must also be referred to the Minister for Primary Industries for advice on the project's impacts under the Aquifer Interference Policy, and to the Commonwealth Independent Expert Scientific Committee for advice on potential impacts on water resources.

Following each assessment, the Panel can issue two types of Gateway Certificate – a certificate which confirms the proposal meets the scientific criteria or a conditional certificate which may include recommendations such as further studies or modifications to the project.

Once the applicant has a Gateway Certificate, they can proceed with a development application. The development application will then be subject to a full merit assessment under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979.

The Panel can also provide advice on request by the Minister or Planning Secretary on the potential agricultural and water impacts of mining or CSG production proposals for which a development application or modification application has been lodged, or environmental assessment requirements are being prepared.

The Panel can also provide input on the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) for projects where the time limit for issuing a Gateway Certificate has lapsed.

Constitution of Gateway Panel

The Independent Planning Commission is to constitute a subcommittee of the Commission as the Mining and Petroleum Gateway Panel. The Commission must consult with the Minister for Planning, the Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities and the Minister for Primary Industries on the proposed membership of the Gateway Panel.

Functions of Gateway Panel

The Gateway Panel has the following functions:

  • to determine applications for gateway certificates
  • to provide advice to the consent authority under clause 17B (1) of the Mining SEPP in relation to applications for development consent
  • to provide advice to the Minister or the Planning Secretary under clause 21(2) of the Mining SEPP in relation to applications for development consent
  • to provide advice to the Planning Secretary under clause 3(4A)(b) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 in relation to the preparation of environmental assessment requirements
  • such other functions as may be imposed or conferred on the Panel by this Policy or any other law.

Members of Gateway Panel

The Gateway Panel is to consist of not less than three persons appointed by the Independent Planning Commission. A member of the Commission may be appointed as a member of the Gateway Panel.

A person is qualified for appointment as a member of the Gateway Panel if the person has expertise in any one or more of the disciplines of agricultural science, hydrogeology or mining and petroleum development.

In appointing the members of the Gateway Panel, the Commission is to ensure, as far as practicable, that the members have expertise in a mix of the abovementioned disciplines. One of the members of the Gateway Panel will be appointed as the Chair of the Panel.

On 1 February 2021 the following experts were appointed to the Mining and Petroleum Gateway Panel for three-year terms:

  • Professor Neal Menzies, Dean of Agriculture, School of Agriculture and Food science, University of Queensland (expert in agriculture and soil science)
  • Professor Ian Anderson, Director, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (expert in agriculture and soil science)
  • Emeritus Professor Joan Esterle, Chair of the Vale-University of Queensland Coal Geoscience program (expert in mining and petroleum development)
  • Dr Clinton Foster PSM, former Chief Scientist of GeoScience Australia (expert in petroleum geology and exploration)
  • Mr Hugh Middlemis, HydroGeoLogic (expert in hydrogeology)
  • Dr Catherine Moore, GNS Science (expert in hydrogeology)
  • Dr Glen Walker, Grounded in Water (expert in hydrogeology)

You can read their biographies here!

Constitution of Gateway Panel for particular matters

For the purpose of carrying out any of its functions, the Gateway Panel is to be constituted by three members. The Chair will determine which members constitute the Panel for the purpose of exercising its functions in relation to a particular matter. The Gateway Panel may, at any time, exercise by the same members or different members, one or more of its functions.

Term and other conditions of office

A member of the Gateway Panel—

(a)  holds office for such term (not exceeding three years) as is determined by the Independent Planning Commission, and

(b)  ceases to hold office in such circumstances as are determined by the Independent Planning Commission, and

(c)  is entitled to such remuneration, if any, and to the payment of such expenses, if any, as are determined by the Independent Planning Commission, and

(d)  holds office subject to such conditions as are determined by the Independent Planning Commission.

Pecuniary interests

A member of the Gateway Panel who has a pecuniary interest (within the meaning of sections 442 and 443 of the Local Government Act 1993) in any matter that is the subject of a decision or advice by the Panel and who is present at a meeting of the Panel at which the matter is being considered—

(a)  must disclose the interest to the meeting as soon as practicable, and

(b)  must not take part in the consideration or discussion of the matter, and

(c)  must not vote on any question relating to the matter.

Procedure at meetings

Subject to clause 17U of the Mining SEPP, the procedure at meetings of the Gateway Panel is to be determined by the Independent Planning Commission or, in the absence of any such determination, by the Panel.