Lock the Gate is urging Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce not to bow to pressure from Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and abandon the interests of farmers across NSW fighting inappropriate mining on their land.
The call comes after media reports that Mr Joyce was backing away from a commitment to ask Premier Barry O’Farrell to revoke two Petroleum Exploration Licences over farmland near Gunnedah.
Mr Joyce had informed a local community group, the Mullaley Gas Pipeline Accord, that he had written to the Premier asking him to consider declaring the Liverpool Plains off limits to any coal seam gas mining in light of community concerns.
National coordinator for Lock the Gate, Phil Laird, said Mr Joyce’s decision to ask the Premier to revoke Petroleum Exploration Licenses 1 and 12, near Gunnedah, demonstrated the value of the black soil plains to the nation’s food security.
“It is also a recognition of the damage unconventional gas exploration and mining can have on water resources and productive agricultural land,” Mr Laird said.
“We welcome Mr Joyce’s decision to listen to the concerns of his constituents in calling for the revocation of licences that threaten this prime agricultural land.
"Farmers managing more than 2 million hectares of agricultural land across the Liverpool Plains have already indicated they don’t want to live in a gasfield,“ Mr Laird said.
Mr Joyce’s action in pushing for the revocation of the PELs was in stark contrast to his Coalition colleague Ian Macfarlane who has said he wants every molecule of gas extracted and secretly convened a panel to over-ride community opposition to gas mining.
“Mr Joyce needs to stay the course and not be railroaded by Mr Macfarlane on this issue of national importance – the protection of our productive land and our water.
“The National Party is finally waking up to the risks of unconventional gas. Rural people need to be protected from the worst impacts of invasive industrial gas fields and this move is a good first step.
“We're also calling on Minister Joyce to urgently take the matter up with the Prime Minister and to invoke Federal powers that are available to protect our valuable food producing lands and limited water resources" he said.
Mr Joyce’s letter to the Mullaley Gas Pipeline Accord comes as Riverina state and federal MPs seek to protect productive agricultural land from invasive gas mining by pushing for no gas zones in their electorates.
PEL 1 and 12 are in the Gunnedah Basin, west of Tamworth.
Media inquiries: Phil Laird 0428712622