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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Australian NSW farmers have called for all new mining and coal seam gas developments in NSW to be suspended until there is a strategic plan which protects food security and agricultural land

Farmers demand halt to all new mining

by Debra Jopson, The Sydney Morning Herald, October 27, 2010
In Australia, New South Wales farmers have called for all new mining and coal seam gas developments in NSW to be suspended until there is a strategic plan which protects food security and agricultural land.
In a move to pressure the state Coalition, which is poised to win government next year, about 80 members of the NSW Farmers' Association's executive meeting in Sydney voted unanimously for a moratorium on all new coal, mineral and gas projects, as well as renewals and extensions of developments.
A spokeswoman, Fiona Simson, said that the association had held talks with the opposition and NSW Minerals Council for 10 months, but farmland is increasingly being alienated and 70% of the state is now under mineral and petroleum title or application.
''If we continue to talk without taking a strong stand such as a moratorium, we're going to be talking forever,'' she said.
''Current legislation is against our water, against our food security and it is against our property rights.''
Mrs Simson said farmers were not anti-mining, but their call drew an angry response from the Minerals Council, which said the association was sharing a policy platform with the Greens.
''It is a disproportionate and extreme response … It will affect investment decisions, hurt future job prospects in regional areas and make NSW the 'ugly duckling' of Australian states for doing business,'' said the deputy chief executive officer, Sue-Ern Tan.
However, Mrs Simson said that landholders were often not notified when their property was subject to a new mineral or gas tenement. They were often shocked when they saw a map revealing mining rights covered their part of the state.
Hunter Valley communities had suffered through ''under-handed'' government deals done behind closed doors, the farmers' association councillor, Peter Dixon Hughes, said.
In many cases they could not stop miners from coming on to their land, he said.
A blueprint for all future NSW development, which identifies productive agricultural land and water resources needing protection, tops a list of reforms the farmers want before any moratorium is lifted.
A new office of agricultural sustainability and food security, reporting directly to the premier, should oversee independent, peer-reviewed, scientific analyses of the effect mining or gas extraction would have on productive land and water before it is approved, the farmers say.
The state's Water Act should be overhauled to ensure that any interference with aquifers requires specific planning approval, they argue.
They also want ''robust, independent monitoring'' of any potential impact on air and water quality, and people's health, before exploration and development licences are granted.
Legislation is also needed to ensure landholders affected by mineral and gas extraction are compensated, they say.
Many laws governing mineral and gas extraction are outdated and need significant reform, Mrs Simson said.
The Onshore Petroleum Act ''is seriously ill-equipped'' to regulate coal seam gas extraction, which can involve carving up farms with access roads, she said.
Ms Tan said that a rigorous planning process means mining proposals are scrutinised for social, environmental and economic impact before they are approved.

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