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Byron Shire
December 1, 2022

Land-use policy ‘flawed’

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Chris Dobney

The government’s Strategic Regional Land Use Policy (SRLUP) announced yesterday has met with a wave of criticism from farming and environmental groups.

The long-awaited policy was promised as a way of placing controls on coal seam-gas (CSG) development but opponents say it is just a way of fast-tracking development..

The government says that as a result of the new all ‘state-significant mining and coal-seam gas proposals that extend beyond an existing lease area on strategic agricultural land must go through an independent, scientific and upfront assessment of their agricultural land and water impacts before a development application can be lodged’.

The land protected under the agreement amounts to some two million hectares. But it is limited to mapped areas, which currently constitutes only the upper Hunter and New England northwest regions. The policy does not currently apply to the northern rivers or Metgasco’s and Arrow Energy’s existing leases here.

Groups as diverse as NSW Farmers, The Greens and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) have moved to distance themselves from the policy.

NCC’s chief executive officer Pepe Clarke said the SRLUP is ‘full of broken promises and strips away essential protection for the state’s most sensitive natural area’.

‘Seven iconic areas of the state’s natural heritage are now at risk of permanent damage from land clearing and mining,’ Mr Clarke said. These include Pilliga Forest, Warkworth Sands Woodland, Leard State Forest, Putty Valley, the Woronora water catchment area in Sydney, the Great Dripping Gorge and the Gardens of Stone.

He added that the SRLUP ‘breaks a solemn promise to NSW communities to ban mining from drinking-water catchments’.

Gates stay locked

Lock the Gate Alliance president Drew Hutton described it as ‘an appalling policy [that] is nothing more than an invitation for high-impact, polluting activities to come on to almost any part of the state’.

He said, ‘the gateway process is based on the assumption that resource extraction should not be ruled out anywhere,’ and added that ‘irrigators will be especially angry that aquifer-interference measures have been downgraded from a regulation to a policy, leaving it as relatively toothless’.

‘Mr O’Farrell and Mr Hartcher can give out as many exploration licences as they like but neither coal nor coal-seam gas industries have a social licence to bring their activities into inappropriate areas and so landowners will continue to lock the gate and, where appropriate, block the gate to these unwelcome companies,’ Mr Hutton said.

In a letter to the editor today NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson described water protections as ‘little more than tokenistic’. She added, ‘we are also bitterly disappointed that despite mapping our “strategic agricultural land” in two regions of the state, the new protections do not rule them off limits to invasive exploration and mining activities’.

The Greens’ mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said, ‘Barry O’Farrell has declared war on the farmers of NSW and completely ignored their concerns’.

‘Not one inch of NSW will be off limits to mining and gas development – instead a gateway will provide a pathway to mining,’ he said.

‘The moratorium on fracking has been lifted without the community being shown any evidence from the government’s so-called independent scientific studies of this technology,’ he added.

‘The Liberal and National parties have sided with the miners.’


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4 COMMENTS

  1. It was interesting to hear Minister Hartcher comment today on radio that opposition to the policy from right across the spectrum was a good indicator that the Government ‘had it right”. I’s suggest the fact that so many stakeholders think it’s wrong simply means it is very, very, wrong!

  2. Barry O’Farrell and his majority government will one day be
    known as the mob that subjected this state to one of the greatest acts of environmental vandalism in it’s already pathetic history.
    I hope I won’t be around much longer, so I won’t be able to say “I told you so”. My grandchildren are going to find it difficult to cope with a poisoned water supply.
    I will keep opposing CSG for the rest of my life.
    I was associated with the mining industry for a small part of my working life. Take it from me. Don’t trust them! Especially their pretty public relation ads showing happy cows grazing around gas wells. What we won’t see is their lovely coats moulting and their milk contaminated.
    Has anybody ever asked the gas miners what they actally do with the chemical poisons and sediments from their settling ponds. It is taken away in tankers, but where to?
    Is this water treated? Is it neutralised? Have ALL the chemicals they use for fracking been authorised by our public water guardians?
    I think not!

  3. It seems that our ruling politicians are all addicted to gambling, development at all costs & coal seam gas mining.
    Perhaps a twelve step program could be suggested to help cure these major obsessions

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