Rein in the CSG cowboys

Can the govt be trusted to balance its need for resources revenue with the future of farmland?

THREE years into the NSW Coalition’s first attempt at government in two decades – and just 12 months from another election – and many farmer fears about the safety of agricultural land remain.

If anything, concerns have grown.

With the shift to economic outcomes as a priority over social and environmental concerns, plus a move toward a streamlined mining approval process, farmers and rural communities feel like they have been hung out to dry.

In short, the miners have again successfully lined Macquarie Street’s coffers at farmers’ expense.

Unanswered question also remain.

Why is government only willing to apply critical industry cluster zones, banning coal seam gas (CSG), exclusively to Thoroughbred and viticulture in the Upper Hunter, but not mainstream food and fibre producers?

Can the State government really be trusted to balance its need for resources revenue with the future of farmland?

Will the Coalition’s move to alter the State Environment Planning Policy for mining (Mining SEPP) tip the scales towards more mining approvals, and away from agriculture?

The State government says its reforms strike a balance with community and industry, but why is there growing discontent in the form of rallies at places like Narrabri, the North Coast and Coonamble?

Meanwhile, excluding urban zones from CSG drilling is merely pleasing the voting masses by appealing to their “not in my backyard” approach, rather than addressing concerns about whether the encroachment of mining and CSG extraction is likely to impact the future viability of rural communities and productive farming industries.

The escalating situation has been recognised by new Resources and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts, who has today announced a six-month moratorium on new license applications.

The recommendations following investigations by the Independent Commission Against Corruption has highlighted how out of control the process has become.

This included recognising avenues through which licenses could be used in order to manipulate the resources market, without considering its impact on agriculture.

So here’s hoping Mr Roberts can rein in the cowboys and deliver better policy – before next year’s election.

TheLand
Andrew Norris

Andrew Norris

is the editor of The Land
Date: Newest first | Oldest first

READER COMMENTS

Bruce Watson
1/04/2014 3:07:53 PM

This is an excellent report - perceptive, informative, and asking a number questions that the coalition government has to confront. We must all insist, not merely hope that the government considers the questions, evident issues, and obvious potential consequences to farmland. It has no excuses not to do so. Its decisions have to confront the long-term consequences of CSG-mining extraction. We have to use the present to protect the future for all of NSW and Australia.
Julie Lyford
9/04/2014 7:24:18 AM

Great article - the issues raised are compounded by the following advice received from the Department Resources and Energy in part - "Finally, it is important to note in her interim report, Professor O’Kane noted that the water risks associated with the CSG industry are similar to those encountered in other energy and water production and extraction/treatment activities. The report also noted that these risks can be managed with appropriate controls." What a spin on a report yet to be finalised! Premier O'Farrell is not getting a grip regarding our land, our water and our future. Truth wins.
Rosemary Nankivell
9/04/2014 12:44:56 PM

Excellent summary of issues. The Premier has to declare areas off limits to the extractive industries. It is appalling to think that the southern end of the Liverpool Plains will, if the companies have their way, host BHP, Shenhua and Santos. The BHP employed soil scientist told us that he located even more BSAL with soil of horticultural quality. Yet today BHP lodged their plans for mining this wonderful area. There is no excuse for this lack of commonsense.
A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.

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