A COMMUNITY group is calling for the state government to show some backbone and enforce its own laws for the pipeline Whitehaven is building to connect water from a nearby farm to its Maules Creek mine.
The Leard Forest Research Node says the pipeline is outside the mine's approved boundaries and according to the state's planning laws it should submit a development modification and conduct environmental studies.
However, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) has wiped its hands of the situation, maintaining there is no need for a modification application, despite maps from the mine's environmental assessment explicitly stating the farm property was not included in the mine's boundaries.
The node's Anna Christie said it was "factually incorrect" to say there was no need for a modification.
"It's one rule for Whitehaven and another for everyone else," Ms Christie said.
A letter penned by DPIE deputy secretary Marcus Ray to the group earlier this year suggested the mine would have to submit a modification for a pipeline.
"However, if Whitehaven Coal needs to install additional infrastructure to bring this water to the mine it may need to seek planning approval for the infrastructure," Mr Ray wrote.
"This was certainly the case recently when Boggabri Coal had to get planning approval to connect its new bore field."
DPIE said there were other approval pathways besides a modification, including "a new development consent or a separate approval process, such as complying development, or other activities that may require assessment under Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act".
Last week, the NVI revealed the state's water watchdog is investigating the pipeline.
There are questions regarding whether the mine has approval to access and use groundwater, if it can transfer the water from the farm in Zone 4 to the mine in Zone 5 and if it needs to carry out further environmental studies before doing so.
Whitehaven said it was "systematically progressing through applicable controls and approvals processes" with the relevant authorities.
Narrabri council has granted the company permission to construct the pipeline along Therribri Rd.