For 22 years the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 (NSW) has sat unchanged. On 22 May 2013, Energy and Resources Minister Chris Hartcher introduced the Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment Bill 2013 into the Legislative Assembly.
Mr Hartcher presented the amendments without the usual fanfare of NSW Government Media Releases and offers of Public Comment.
Mr Hartcher did not promote his favourite line to the media “tough new conditions for coal
and coal seam gas” with the amendments proposed.
Why not? Because Mr Hartcher wants the amendments to the Bill for the most talked about
industry in Australia - Coal Seam Gas to go through the NSW Parliament without a fuss, as
quickly as possible and to placate the miners.
“Not on our watch” says Lock the Gate Alliance campaigner Penny Blatchford, Gurley. “Is
this a new NSW Government strategy of the Liberal National Coalition to stop involving the
public in important amendments to the laws of this state for mining and coal seam gas”?
The changes are not minor. Mr Hartcher proposes amendments to; legal costs, access
codes, seismic surveys, direction powers, inspectors, corporate liability, offences and
penalties, introduces suspend conditions extensions, obstruction/hinder provisions, powers
of entry and inspection to name a few.
Most worrying is Mr Hartcher is pushing for amendments to allow for permits granted by
the Minister for access for “assessment of the environment” without the need for access
agreements from the landholder. Required entry in other circumstances.
The definition of ‘permit’ is not included in the Petroleum (Onshore) Act.
The “assessment of the environment” could largely involve all that is required for
exploration. So very quickly without any requirement for an access agreement under
exploration a Miner could move to a production licence. A little known fact of the law is
that there is no mention of an access agreement required between the miner and
landholder under a production licence in the Act.
“Minister Hartcher knows exactly what he is doing, he is sidelining the landholders of NSW,
accelerating licences from exploration to production via permits, these amendments
certainly are not for the betterment of the community in fact, quite the opposite” says
“The people of NSW should be given the opportunity to comment formally through a public
submission process before this Bill is passed through the NSW Parliament and made law”.
“If the law has not been changed for 22 years what’s the rush”?
“Lets get it right, lets create the right balance between the community, landholders and the
miners” says Megan Kuhn, Bundella Lock the Gate.
It is of great concern to the Lock the Gate Alliance members Mr Hartcher has not listened
to the community and not strengthened the proposed amendments for landholders in
“Landholders still don’t have the right to an Australian legal practitioner during arbitration –
Right of Appearance which is unacceptable. Landholders do not have the right to say no
which is unacceptable. Landholders rural homes can have exploration and production 200
metres from their homes which is unacceptable” says Penny Blatchford.
The Bill goes to the Upper House in the week of 18 June. Tell Parliament it’s time that
farmers had the right to say no and you want a say in what amendments are made. Lock the
Gate Alliance has prepared a guide “Take action on proposed changes to NSW CSG Laws”.