The Lock the Gate Alliance has warned the NSW Government that it is sowing the seeds of ongoing discord in rural communities by failing to consult and develop mining and planning reform in line with community expectations, after five Bills were rushed through parliament last night.
A slew of minor changes to planning and mining reform have been initiated or implemented by the Government in the last twelve months, some of which have been positive but none of which have delivered clear protection for farmland, water resources, air quality or bushland.
Lock the Gate Alliance warned piecemeal reform processes for land access, assessment requirements, compliance and reporting, and codes of practice for some aspects of mining and exploration were failing every step of the way to meet community expectations and that public inputs into these processes were being ignored.
The five Bills passed last night included changes to the land access regime that actually weaken protections for improved lands. Under the guise of giving landholders greater rights and protections in negotiating land access with coal and gas companies, the NSW Government has passed changes to the Mining Act that could make it more difficult for landholders to protect improvements they’ve made from mining impacts.
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW Coordinator, Georgina Woods said, “This government came to power promising to protect farmland from coal mining. They haven’t done that, and we’ve got the best farmland in the country being targeted for open cut mining.
“Not only have they utterly failed to do anything to protect farmland from mining, they’re now trying to remove the one measure in law that protects farm improvements from mining.
“Not only have they failed to listen to the mass of submissions, letters and pleas for reform, protection and certainty coming from affected communities and rural industries, they’ve set up city-based advisory group that excludes affected communities and the Hunter’s wine tourism and horse breeding industries, the two most directly and intensely in conflict with mining.
“The recommendation today from the Planning and Assessment Commission that the Warkworth mine expansion should be approved is all the evidence you need that the system is utterly failing communities and the environment.
“If Minister Roberts and Minister Stokes can’t cooperate to reform mining and give some protection and certainty to rural industries and people that are affected by coal and gas, then the Premier needs to step in and do something about it. This dithering has gone on long enough.”