Monday, January 04, 2021

Greenies lose one in NSW

The Greenies really pushed this one. They had wins in various courts before this final loss. One argument that initially got some credit was that you had to consider emissions OVERSEAS. Emissions in other countries had to be considered by Australian courts. Apparently Australia must be held responsible for what other countries do if they burn coal sourced from Australia.

The conservative NSW government has been rather bold in giving this approval. Farmers are a traditional base of support for conservative parties and lots of farmers have joined the Greenie protests. Farmers don't like coal mines messing up their nice green landscapes either.

Coal and gas projects that could release more than 1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases have been given the green light by the NSW government in the two years since a Land and Environment Court ruling, which upheld the government's Rocky Hill coal mine refusal in part because of climate impacts.

The billion tonnes of greenhouse emissions would be generated by third parties like overseas power plants burning the coal and gas produced over the life of six projects approved since February 2019. The 1 billion tonne figure is nearly double Australia's entire annual greenhouse gas output.

Activist group Lock the Gate Alliance say NSW's project approval agency, the Independent Planning Commission, has been compromised by changes that were imposed by Planning Minister Rob Stokes after the Court rejected the Rocky Hill proposal.

Following that ruling, Mr Stokes issued a statement of expectations in May last year. It followed the commission imposing extra conditions on the Wambo coal mine, and rejecting a proposed coal mine in the Bylong Valley.

Mr Stokes' statement of expectations said the commission should make final determinations within 12 weeks of receiving a project for assessment, and that one of its guiding principles is to adhere to government policy when assessing proposals.

In the Rocky Hill case the Land and Environment Court found scope 3 emissions must be considered - that is greenhouse gases generated when third parties, such as power stations, burn gas or coal for energy.

Lock the Gate NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said after the commission rejected the Bylong coal project Mr Stokes "kneecapped" the authority. Since then, the IPC had "failed in its obligation" under planning laws to consider scope 3 emissions in its approval of four coal projects and the Narrabri coal seam gas project, she said.

"Long-standing regulation stipulates that the consent authority, in this case the IPC, must consider whether a project should come with conditions that ensure greenhouse gas emissions - including downstream or scope 3 emissions - are minimised to the greatest extent practicable," Ms Woods said.

Mr Stokes said the IPC was reformed following an "extensive review" by the NSW Productivity Commission, and that it was required to consider scope 3 emissions impacts. He accused Lock the Gate of "only telling one side of the story".

"All environmental impacts of projects including greenhouse gas emissions both here and abroad must be considered by the IPC in making a decision," Mr Stokes said. "The IPC [recently] approved more than $1.5 billion in renewable energy projects."

Local farmers last week lodged a legal challenge to the commission's approval of the Narrabri gas project in north-west NSW. The Mullaley Gas and Pipeline Accord, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, will argue in the NSW Land and Environment Court the IPC wrongly found that it could not address scope 3 emissions from the gasfield.

'Rural hardship': Farmers take Narrabri CSG approval to court
There are three coal projects under consideration by the IPC which would create an additional 450 million tonnes of carbon emissions over the course of their life.

Lock the Gate said communities impacted by resources projects must be permitted to lodge merits appeals in the the Land and Environment Court.

A merits review is when a third party can reconsider the evidence presented to, and final decision of, an authority like the IPC. Under current laws merits appeal rights are revoked when the Planning Minister directs the IPC to hold a public hearing.

Property prices defy pandemic, grow in every capital city except Melbourne in 2020

Buying a home in every capital city across the country except for Melbourne became more expensive in 2020, while regional property prices grew three times as fast as the big smoke.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Sydney house prices increased 4 per cent over the year to December, CoreLogic data released on Monday morning shows. Regional NSW house prices jumped 8.8 per cent over the same period. In Melbourne, prices slumped 2 per cent but increased 5.5 per cent in regional Victoria.

Capital city property values collectively increased 2 per cent over the year, while country home prices increased 6.9 per cent.

While prices did suffer during the height of the virus, falling about 2 per cent between April and September, national prices are now in their third consecutive month of price growth.

The coronavirus pandemic also changed when people were willing and able to sell, and when the virus hit sales volumes dropped 40 per cent. But by the end of the year there were more sales than 12 months ago, CoreLogic research director Tim Lawless said.

"Record low interest rates played a key role in supporting housing market activity, along with a spectacular rise in consumer confidence as COVID-related restrictions were lifted and forecasts for economic conditions turned out to be overly pessimistic," Mr Lawless said.

At the height of the virus, major bank economists were predicting a major city property price crash shaving more than 20 per cent of home values. These forecasts were largely made before the introduction of federal government stimulus measures, including the $100 billion wage subsidy program JobKeeper, and emergency assistance from lenders to allow repayment holidays.

"Containing the spread of the virus has been critical to Australia’s economic and housing market resilience," Mr Lawless said.

Melbourne home values remain 4.1 per cent below their March 2020 peak, while Sydney prices are 3.9 per cent down compared to the peak of the property boom in July 2017.

He said the turnaround for regional areas, which have typically underperformed compared to capital city prices, was affected by more remote working opportunities.

The best performing cities for price growth were Darwin, Canberra and Hobart, which increased by 11.9 per cent, 8.5 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively.

Regional Tasmania was the top performing country location, with prices up 12 per cent.

Apartment prices did not fare as well over the year, declining 0.2 per cent in Sydney while remaining flat in Melbourne.

Queenslanders lead nation with $4.1b in sales to mid-January

QUEENSLAND is forecast to lead the country with over $4.1 billion in sales to mid-January, seeing the highest predicted growth from last year’s post-Christmas spend.

The Australian Retailers Association predicts retail sales across the period from Boxing Day to mid-January to be up by 7.9 per cent over the 2019 figures – an increase of $301m.

The figures beat out Tasmania at 7 per cent, followed by ACT at 5.6 per cent.

Queensland is also set to benefit from being the premier holiday choice for many Australians particularly while international borders remain in place.

ARA chief executive Paul Zahra said the figures were a strong result, particularly in a pandemic year, and could be attributed to overall consumer confidence and Queensland with low infection rates, stimulus cash still in the economy and domestic holiday makers and money being diverted from overseas travel.

He said while the numbers bode well for 2021, the industry is cautious around the impact of JobKeeper and JobSeeker schemes ending in March.

“New Year’s Day has traditionally been one of the quietest shopping days of the year as most consumers choose to recover from the festivities of the night before- with many retailers choosing to open with reduced trading hours. However, we expect to spring back quickly as the Boxing Day sales continue into January - we know Australians like to snap up a bargain.

“We expect Queensland post-Christmas sales to lead the country with a forecasted sales increase of 7.9% over the same period in 2019. “According to our ARA - Roy Morgan forecasts, this would equate to $4.1 billion in spending – an increase of $301 million.”

It comes as the accommodation sector looks to restore people’s confidence after a drop off in December.

Queensland Hotel Association chief executive Bernie Hogan said there had been an “enormous drop off” in December when people’s confidence was at a low.

“That has seemed to recover okay through the Christmas and New Year period but forward looking, it doesn’t look that strong,” he said.

“Cairns and Whitsundays are obviously a big commitment (for people in NSW) for travel – people are worried they may not be able to get there or stay there or come home so it’s a big commitment for people.

“Drive markets right across Queensland have gone very well because there was a last minute opportunity for people to pick up a last minute deal but anything further than that there are still some concerns.”




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