Following the release of the Bylong Gateway Panel Assessment, NSW Farmers repeats our strong criticism of the NSW Government’s gateway process for state significant developments on prime agricultural land.
Our initial reservations about the gateway have unfortunately been vindicated with projects passing through the process even when the projects are going to result in significant impacts on verified strategic agricultural soils and valuable water resources. It’s totally unacceptable.
The gateway process is completely powerless. In essence, there is no gate and no ability for projects to be denied a gateway certificate despite best science clearly highlighting relevant and serious concerns. There are only two options available to the gateway panel – to issue a certificate or to issue a conditional certificate.
The association has also highlighted concerns that the Planning and Assessment Commission cannot adequately assess compliance by mining and coal seam gas companies to conditions highlighted by the gateway panel as not being met.
At the very least there needs to be some sort of loop-back mechanism whereby the panel can assess whether a proponent has met certain conditions.
Prior to the 2011 NSW election, the coalition promised to protect agricultural land and water from the impacts of mining and CSG, she said.
The Strategic Regional Land Use Policy, which the gateway process is a part of, was an election commitment made by the NSW Liberals and Nationals aimed at restoring balance between agriculture and the extractive industries.
While the gateway process remains a rubber-stamping exercise, the government has failed to meet this commitment.
We have been very vocal about this from the time discussions began on the design of the policy. In fact, it is was a key issue that led to the Protect our Land and Water campaign which brought together more than 30 industry, community and environment groups to call on the NSW Government to honour its election commitments. The campaign culminated in a rally outside Parliament House, Sydney, and was attended by over 8,000 city and country people united on this issue.
The message that we delivered to government on that day is exactly the same one we deliver today. Get serious about the protection of our agricultural land and water. The key way to do that is by putting a gate on the gateway and giving the panel some regulatory force. Ms Simson concluded.
Fiona Simson, president, NSW Farmers