Wambo open cut conflict of interest raises questions about the Independent Planning Commission’s ability to act impartially

Opponents of the proposed Wambo open cut mining project believe they are unlikely to get a fair hearing even after the Independent Planning Commission appoints a new commissioner to the panel considering the project.
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Outraged: Bulga-Milbrodale Progress Association president John Krey. Picture: Peter Stoop.

Geoff Sharrock stood down from the panel two hours before a public meetingabout the project was due to commence on Wednesday after he identified a conflict of interest.

An IPC spokesman said Mr Sharrock was only appointed to the panel on Tuesday and advised chairwomanMary O’Kane of the conflict at the first available opportunity.

He was the second commissioner forced to stand aside from the panel due to a conflict of interest.

Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association president John Krey said the apparent difficulties finding a genuinely independent commissioner combined with the concerns raised by Department of Planning whistle blowers made it unlikely the project would ever be impartially assessed.

“The assessment of every mining project should be put on hold until the allegations raised by the four whistle blowers are resolved,” Mr Krey said.

“We are also very concerned about the process used to checkthe CVs of those people who are appointed to the panel.”

Camberwell resident Deidre Olofsson complained to the NSW Ombudsman in 2015 regarding potential conflicts of interest that prevent the commission from making unbiased decisions.

Ms Olofsson said she was appalled that Mr Sharrock’s conflict of interest was only identified two hours before Wednesday’s meeting was due to start.

“It is important that the public have strong confidence andtrust in the independent planning commissioner but utmost that the commissioners themselvesare deemed independent by the public and honest,” Ms Olofsson wrote in a letter to commission chairwoman Mary O’Kane on Wednesday.

The public meeting has been rescheduled for February 2019 when a new panel will be appointed to consider the project.

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