The Lock the Gate Alliance has urged the new NSW Nationals leadership team, including leader John Barilaro, to heed the lesson from the weekend’s by-election and stand with rural communities affected by the impacts of coal and coal seam gas on their land, their water and their way of life.
While the proposed greyhound racing ban and council amalgamations have been recent headline issues in the country, Lock the Gate spokesperson Phil Laird said there was a deep seam of dissatisfaction in many rural communities whose rights had been trampled by mining.
"A key test of new Nationals Leader John Barilaro and his deputy Niall Blair will be whether they stand for the protection of rural communities, their land and their water against the vested interests of the mining industry,” he said.
"The Nationals risk further swings against them at future elections if they don’t respond to the deep well of concern in rural communities.
"Farmers and landholders from the Hunter region, the Liverpool Plains and beyond have watched in dismay over recent years as the Nationals dumped their akubras for hard hats, and pushed the interests of big miners over people on the land.
"The Nationals can either return to their traditional’ values of sticking up for regional communities or expect more of those voters to look elsewhere for parties or independents who can better deliver protection for them.
"Communities would welcome a fresh approach from the new leadership on these issues. Deputy Premier Barilaro has an opportunity to chart a course away from the land use conflict that has dogged the state coalition government since Barry O’Farrell first came to power.
"It’s not what you say, but what you do.
“A good first step for the Nationals would be to finally put an end to controversial new mining projects which are threatening farmland and water resources - including the Narrabri coal seam gas project and the Shenhua and Bylong coal mines,” he said.