The overhauled Independent Planning Commission will have 12 weeks to recommend if controversial developments and mining projects should be approved, as part of the government's push to improve its efficiency.
The new three-month timeframe will apply to all projects for which the commission must hold public hearings.
The commission had been criticised by objectors and proponents alike for its handling of a number of contentions mining projects in the Hunter in recent years.
These include the Rix's Creek open cut proposal near Singleton and Kepco's proposal for a coalmine in the Bylong Valley.
A review of its performance by the Productivity Commissioner found that, while it was in the public interest to retain the IPC, its policies and programs had not always provided certainty, consistency and timeliness.
NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes advised the commission of the new benchmarks in a written "statement of expectations".
"The recommendations from the Productivity Commission's review reinforced the importance of independent decision-making in upholding the integrity of the NSW planning system," Mr Stokes said.
"Everyone benefits when we have clear and transparent benchmarks: the IPC knows what is expected of them in making a decision on a project; the community knows what role they have to play; and proponents know how and when their project will be determined."
An exception to the new timeline will be made where the commission requests further information from the department or the applicant.
Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee, who was critical of the commission's previous decision making processes, welcomed the changes, which were the result of a Productivity Commission review.
"The government has indicated that it wants to ensure the planning system efficiently and rapidly assesses projects of state significance, and the minister's new directive to the IPC is a good step forward in achieving this.
"As we start to rebuild the regional and state economies, mining and other infrastructure projects will help drive the jobs and investment. There are currently 31 projects at various stages in the planning pipeline worth around $13 billion which could provide around 14,700 jobs and billions of royalties to the state over the next two decades."
But Hunter Communities Network spokeswoman Bev Smiles said the new expectations represented a continued weakening of planning approval oversight.
"The only information available to make a decision will be based on Department of Planning assessment that relies entirely on consultant reports commissioned by the coal industry," she said.
"The IPC will now be a token decision-maker. There is nothing 'independent' about a body that cannot commission its own advice
"For coal affected communities, other industries and the environment in the Hunter, this is just another nail in the coffin."
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