Four pieces of legislation introduced by the NSW government yesterday make positive changes to give improved powers to the Environment Protection Authority and to reduce opportunities for corruption in the handling of exploration titles, but have failed to meet basic community expectations that farmland, drinking water catchments and villages will be off-limits to coal mining and coal seam gas.
The government introduced legislation yesterday to “harmonise” some aspects of mining laws for coal and gas, make changes to the compulsory arbitration process for land access and introduce a competitive process for the allocation of new exploration areas for coal and gas mining, but failed to ensure that the allocation of mining areas would not occur on the state’s best farmland, in Sydney’s drinking water catchment, or next to rural villages and homes.
Lock the Gate NSW Coordinator Georgina Woods said, “We can’t understand why the Government won’t act to protect farmland and drinking water catchments from mining.
“Mike Baird seems to be out of touch on this issue. Ask anyone at your local pub if they think the black soils of the Liverpool Plains should be opened up to coal mining, or if they think coal seam gas mining should be allowed in the protected areas of Sydney’s drinking water catchment: they’ll be stunned to hear the Government doesn’t have laws in place to protect those places.
“The Government spent over $3 million buying back coal seam gas exploration licences, but now they’re about to start releasing them again. There’s nothing in these Bills to preventing licences being handed out in inappropriate areas, like Sydney’s drinking water catchment, the Northern Rivers, or important farmland, the Government could grant new exploration licences over areas where they just spent tax-payers money buying back licences.
“The conflict and decimation being visited on communities like Maules Creek, Bylong, Wybong and Breeza by mining could be prevented with up front constraints on mining in the laws the Government is now amending. We’re going to be making the case to the cross-bench and opposition to give communities certainty up front with clear exclusion zones that keep mining out of places where it is just not appropriate.”