Coalition rethinks mining election policies

The State Opposition has rewritten some of its regional land use policies and dropped commitments to get tougher on miners regulatory compliance.

Leaked documents reveal the Liberals and Nationals’ change in policy, and their draft policy has been handed to the NSW Farmers Association, after changes were included in the document.

The Herald is reporting that two draft versions of the land use policy passed to them show the minerals council insisted certain anti-mining lines be removed.

It says a commitment by the Coalition to “improve monitoring and compliance” for mining projects on agricultural land was deleted twice from the “strategic regional land use planning policy” document and subsequently, the line does not appear in the policy document given to the farmers association for comment.

This latest development comes after Barry O’Farrell’s declaration two weeks ago that he would turn the Dharawal State Conservation into a national park if he is voted in at the state March state election.

However, Environmentalists claimed that turning the area into a National Park would not necessarily stop mining there.

This is the latest example of disagreements between miners and farmers in NSW, who are continually voicing their opposition to the increase in coal and gas seam exploration.

Industry whispers are now apparently questioning why opposition spokesman Duncan Gay attended drinks last month at a minerals council event but did not attend the farmers association’s Christmas drinks.

The terminology has reportedly been changed from saying a growth in the mining industry is increasing “land use conflict” to “seeing expansion of these industries on to high value agriculture land.”

They apparently also asked for references to “water” resources and potential impacts of mining on them to be removed and instead be termed “precious environmental assets”.

The mining industry defends coal seam gas extraction, which can damage water tables when the rock fracturing technique , commonly known as fracking,  is used.

Farmers have been calling for an office of agricultural sustainability and food security, reporting directly to the Premier, and the documents allegedly reveal the Coalition have agreed to establish one.

The farmers want all mining projects to be stopped until detailed assessment of land use is carried out by a new  government.

The NSW Minerals Council says the idea hasn’t been “fully thought through, including how the office would be funded, role and function of the office.”

If the Coalition wins office, they will announce a “transitional period” where a tougher assessment criteria will be implemented for mining projects on agricultural land and place a “pause” on granting new mining titles.

But the council says such a pause would be inappropriate and instead encouraging more transparency where the “community will be given a say”.

The Herald also says the Coalition would move to introduce aquifer interference regulation to protect agricultural water supplies and quotes a senior government source as saying it is “extraordinary” to allow pressure groups to actively rewrite election policies and that he had “never heard of this before”.

Gay said policies were often widely consulted on and that “our final policy will show that we are not beholden to either miners or farmers,” he said.

According to a spokesman for the minerals council chief executive, Nikki Williams, miners and farmers have been working “side-by-side” on the policy.

”Both bodies have provided comments and feedback on innumerable versions of this draft policy,”  he said.

Farmers association president, Charles Armstrong says their negotiations are ongoing.

"The NSW Farmers Association is still negotiating matters relating to mining policies with the NSW opposition,” he said.

”We are confident our policies will be reflected in their policy document.”

Image: The NSW Liberals and Nationals Strategic Regional Lands Use Planning Policy document, shown on the Sydney Morning Herald website.

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