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.