The release of the new strategic land use policy for NSW has drawn criticism both from miners and farmers.
Minster for planning and infrastructure Brad Hazzard yesterday released a draft regional land use policy that mapped out the plans for the Upper Hunter and New England North West Regions.
Hazzard said the draft proposal of a strategic regional land-use policy will "ensure prime agricultural land and critical industry clusters like the thoroughbred and wine industries are safeguarded.
"We’re also giving improved certainty for the State’s important resources industry by establishing clear rules and a transparent assessment process."
According to the draft, mining and coal seam gas proposals within two kilometers of ‘strategic agricultural land’ will now need to go through a new ‘Gateway’ process, which will involve an external scientific panel which has the power to veto or pass it through to the development application state.
A draft policy for coal seam gas exploration was also released, which included provisions for companies to pay legal costs for farmers who take them to court to stop operations, the SMH reports.
The policies were soon panned by mining and agricultural groups, which stated that the government has not delivered what it promised.
Head of the NSW Farmers’ Association, Fiona Simson, stated that the government has broken its election promise to protect parts of NSW from mining and coal seam gas operations.
‘Nowhere is sacred, nowhere is safe,” she said.
”The government is clearly on the coal seam gas bandwagon.”
The NSW Minerals Council initially welcomed the government’s efforts to minimise land use conflicts, but added that the new plans would lead to increased regulations and less certainty.
"We’re concerned that this is imposing more regulation and in some cases duplicating existing processes for what is already one of the most heavily regulated industries in NSW," Minerals Council head Stephen Galilee said.
"The minerals industry takes its obligations to the environment and the community very seriously and supports a balanced approach to the development of the State’s resources. "In this regard it’s important to remember that mining currently accounts for around 0.1% of the State’s land, while agriculture accounts for around 76% of the State’s land.
"We’ve always said that if a project doesn’t stack up against the science it shouldn’t go ahead and that remains our position.
"However, the new ‘Gateway’ assessment appears to duplicate processes already in place. It includes the addition of yet another expert panel to decide early in the process whether a proposal can proceed to a second stage with advice from the Federal Government’s Independent Expert Panel," he said.
“It’s extremely concerning that this new State-based panel would decide whether a mining proposal can be developed without having actually seen a full mining proposal.
Hazzard confirmed that the guidelines would make mining more expensive in the state and increase approvals time.
”These measures will add to the cost – that’s obvious – but the cost is justified by the public interest,” he said.
Regarding the development of strategic land use policies, Galilee stated that both mining and agriculture were integral to the state, adding that "it shouldn’t be a question of one or the other. Responsibly developed and properly regulated, these industries can continue to co-exist and prosper".
The draft policy is open for public comment for the next two months.