FOUR years and an about face will see The Nationals WA go to the March State election with a policy platform giving farmers the right to stop oil and gas companies coming on their land.
Moore MLA Shane Love and Agriculture Region MLC Paul Brown, who plans to contest the Liberal-held lower house seat of Geraldton at the election, put a motion up to The Nationals' recent State conference which was unanimously endorsed.
The motion made a proposed amendment to the WA Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967, to bring access permission into line with that of the Mining Act 1978, officially endorsing Nationals' policy.
Four years ago Mr Love was on his own as the only Nationals MP to cross the floor of State parliament during a vote on the issue.
"There's been a change of heart and they (The Nationals WA MPs) have come in behind me with support on this," Mr Love said this week.
"This is a significant outcome and will help form the party's position in the lead-up to the 2017 State election.
"Ensuring greater landholder rights has been one of my major priorities since being elected to parliament four years ago.
"The Nationals WA strongly support landholders having the right to choose whether to allow gas exploration and production on their property."
His Moore electorate and the southern part of neighbouring Geraldton electorate cover gas prospective areas near Dandaragan and Moora and gas fields east of Dongara.
The Mid West is an area of the State considered to have potential for unconventional gas - known as tight gas and shale gas - trapped in rock between two and four kilometres underground.
It has become a regional hot spot for environmental group and local community opposition to hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, in which a high-pressure cocktail of water, surfactants and abrasive materials is pumped into deep rock fissures in the search for unconventional gas.
"We are not saying we are opposed to any industry, we are simply saying landowners should have the same option of being able to veto oil and gas industry incursions onto their land as they can veto mining for minerals and metals," Mr Love said.
"We want all negotiations (between oil and gas companies and landowners) to be respectful.
"I'm aware a number of farmers have negotiated mutually beneficial arrangements with oil and gas companies with excellent outcomes.
"I'm also aware the experience has not been excellent for others.
"If an activity is going to devalue your land and make it impossible to sell it for 30 years, you should at least have the option of saying whether you are prepared to allow it on your land or not."
Mr Love said the State conference was the venue for determining The Nationals WA policy and he dismissed as incorrect speculation its support for his motion could be overturned by the parliamentary party.
The Nationals WA's Kalgoorlie-based MLC for the Mining and Pastoral Region Dave Grills thanked Mr Love for his hard work on the issue.
"This a practical and sensible proposal that, if implemented, will significantly reduce some of the uncertainty over land use and access in Western Australia," Mr Grills said.
Frack Free Future co-ordinator Jules Kirby praised The Nationals WA members "for responding to widespread concerns about unconventional gas and fracking".
"The Nat's motion shows the race to win anti-fracking votes at the March State election is well under way," Ms Kirby said.
"Voters across WA will be deciding which party can be trusted to protect precious water supplies, quality industries such as farming and tourism, and the fragile beauty of our internationally famous wildflowers, forests and farmland.
"The Liberals are stalled at the starting line - their recently announced land access working group is stacked with gas industry representatives and won't even report until 2018.
"Meanwhile, Labor needs to prove its planned moratorium on unconventional gas involves a full, five-year halt to the industry whilst a thorough, evidence-based review takes place."
Ms Kirby said mining magnate and cattle baron Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest could expect "fierce resistance" to his plans to explore for gas in the Kimberley.
p Give power back to the farm community. Pages 4-5.