Deputy premier and Nationals leader Andrew Stoner branded coal-seam gas opponents as ‘extremists’ at the National Party conference on the weekend and said ‘nothing would please them’.
He has sent the strongest message yet that he will not deal with CSG activists and the government will not back away from encouraging CSG mining in the state.
‘I send a message that the extremists in that debate will never be pleased no matter what, so we won’t be dealing with them. We will be dealing with people who make constructive suggestions as to how we can protect our farm future whilst also reaping the benefits of resource development,’ he told the ABC’s Rural Report this morning.
The party’s Lismore state electoral council has backed a motion calling on the government not to issue any further exploration licences or allow work on expired licences until there is a federal inquiry into the industry. But it seems their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
However Mr Stoner has announced some changes to the way gas mining will proceed in the state, including:
- removing the five-year royalty holiday that previously applied to CSG activities in NSW
- creating a standardised agreement with landholders for all CSG activities
- appointing a land and water commissioner who will oversee the application of the agreements
- establishing new regional community funds, which will see local communities receive a share of their region’s assets; nut communities not affected by CSG will not have access to the funds.
He added that the government would ‘continue to refine’ the draft Strategic Regional Land Use policy over the next few months ‘to ensure NSW has the strongest regulation of mining and gas extraction in Australia, if not the world’.
CSG miner Santos has admitted in a statement that the scrapping of the royalty period would cost the industry money but it welcomed Mr Stoner’s speech ‘as a clear sign the government is committed to the success of the industry’.
Mr Stoner said that the standardised agreement would be developed by a working group made up of NSW farmers, irrigators, cotton growers, and the coal-seam gas industry, and the application of these agreements would be overseen by the new Land and Water Commissioner.
The commissioner will report to the director general of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services.
‘The role will complement the federal government’s newly established interim Independent Expert Scientific Committee,’ he said.
Money received by the regional community funds would provide funding ‘critical infrastructure or human services’ projects, with priorities to be determined ‘in consultation with the industry and the community’.
Under the proposed framework, coal-seam gas producers ‘may elect to contribute funding into a regional community fund’ he said.
The sweetener for the industry is that the state government ‘will refund $1 for every $2 committed by industry, up to 10 per cent of the royalty take’.