Back in June, EJA Clean Air Campaigner Maxwell Smith and EJA lawyer Bronya Lipski presented expert evidence to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the health impacts of air pollution in NSW. Significantly, Max and Bronya’s appearance came the same week that The Guardian revealed the NSW government abandoned its plan for a clean air strategy after five years of planning. This announcement sparked anger and outrage from communities living near major sources of pollution, such as coal-fired power stations, who spent years contributing to development of the strategy. Max called for the government to explain why it had back flipped on its longstanding commitment to a clean air strategy, ignoring communities and the advice of the EPA, and for the draft strategy to be made public. Days later, the NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean walked back suggestions the clean air strategy had been dropped, and recommitted to delivering the plan, which is three years overdue, early next year.
This double back-flip from the Minister shows that the NSW government’s commitment to clean air hangs in the balance and we’ll need to work hard to hold the government to its promises.
In September, the NSW Upper House Committee on Health tabled its report on the health impacts of air pollution in NSW. Max and Bronya are quoted extensively in the report. The Committee made 10 recommendations to the government, focused on measures for improving access to information and education about air pollution and health impacts, and reducing pollution as far as possible. Two of the key recommendations that EJA has campaigned for are:
Recommendation 1: That the NSW Government continue to expand its Air Quality Monitoring Network, and consider the placement of additional permanent monitoring sensors in locations known to have emission producing industries and those likely to experience air pollution events, including Lake Macquarie and Lithgow.
Earlier this year, Minister Kean announced a new air quality monitor for Lake Macquarie. Community pressure and advocacy was key to this announcement. The air quality monitor is now live and transmitting data to the EPA website. An air pollution monitor for Lake Macquarie is a fantastic win for this community. But the fight isn’t over until we can all breathe clean air. The Lithgow community, near the Mt Piper coal-fired power station, still has no permanent air quality monitoring system.
Recommendation 9: That the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment ensure that it completes and releases the Clean Air for NSW Strategy by early 2021. Further, that the strategy:
- incorporate a strong framework for regulation of air pollution from industry, vehicles and wood heaters
- link to a comprehensive plan for air quality monitoring across the state
- be supported by adequate resourcing of the agency responsible for implementation
The government is required to respond to the recommendations by 16 March 2021.
What does this mean for us?
We have an unprecedented opportunity between now and March 2021 to influence the development of the NSW government’s Clean Air Strategy and ensure that it delivers pollution reduction and healthy lungs for the people of NSW.
How can we win? What can I do?
- Showing Minister Kean and the government the strong community support and demand for an effective Clean Air Strategy.
- Click here to demand Environment Minister Matt Kean and the NSW government to deliver a strong and effective Clean Air Strategy.
- We need to outline the key measures the government must implement as part of an effective Clean Air Strategy.
- Over the past few months, EJA has been consulting with community, environment and health groups, to develop a list of actions for the government to reduce pollution and protect public health, called The People’s Clean Air Action Plan. In February, we’ll host a public launch event to reveal our very own People’s Clean Air Action Plan for NSW, which will outline the key actions the government must take to control pollution across the state. We’ll invite the Minister to attend the forum, present him with the Plan, and demand that he implements it to protect the health of all NSW.
- Click here to RSVP for the February launch event.
- We need to escalate community pressure for Minister Kean so that he sees the Clean Air Strategy as a political priority and is compelled to implement it. Here is an online resources toolkit of actions you can take to turn up the pressure for clean air.
It’s been a long, hard year for many. But our community has been successful at growing and building a powerful campaign for clean air, and creating this opportunity for success. Thanks for being part of it. We hope you can have a healthy and happy holiday, and return in 2021 ready to win an effective Clean Air Strategy in 2021.