The Lock the Gate Alliance has called on the NSW Government to confirm landholder’s right of veto to coal and gas companies in NSW land access arrangements, saying the government must respect the will of the community.
This comes as the NSW’s governments Draft Land Access Code consultation period closed yesterday. The consultation process drew a storm of protest when it emerged that the Land and Water Commissioner, Jock Laurie, was conducting private meetings with a number of peak industry bodies in order to sign off on the draft code.
Analysis by the Alliance found that the draft Code of Practice for Land Access weakens the rights of landholders who are forced to negotiate with gas companies, instead of enhancing them as it promised to do. The Code introduces legal uncertainty to existing rights, fails to deliver best practice standards, and focuses on minor issues, such as closing gates, instead of the major points of contention such as the right to say 'no' to unconventional gas, proper compensation, full transparency, and insurance and liability for damage caused.
“This was an important issue leading in to the 2011 state election and the draft Code failed to measure up to community expectations. Overwhelmingly, our members are saying that they want the right to say no and this must be included in any access arrangements” said Lock the Gate National Co-ordinator, Phil Laird.
Retired Northern Territory Supreme Court and NSW District Court judge, John Nader, has also been strongly critical of the current Mining and Petroleum (Onshore) Act land access process, saying only last week that “it would be hard to imagine a more unbalanced and badly considered set of arbitration laws.”
The environmental threat posed by unconventional gas has resulted in a huge community mobilisation. Community surveys across the state consistently return results of 90% or more residents declaring their community’s gas field free. Independent polling shows that 84% of NSW voters say that the landholder should have the right to say no to CSG and the Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that no one should be forced to have a gas well on their land.
“The NSW government is out of touch with the community on this one,” Mr Laird continued, “and even the Gas Operator, Santos, has said it will not access a farmers land if it is not welcome.”
“We strongly encourage the new Resources and Energy Minister, Anthony Roberts, to rebuild relations with the community on coal and gas. We don’t want to be like Queensland and the sooner our political representatives respect the community’s wishes the better.”
For Comment: Phil Laird 0428 712 622
Lock the Gate Draft Land Access Code Submission Dot Points