NSW Minerals Council slams new land use policy

The NSW Minerals Council has come out against the newly released Strategic Regional Land Use Policy, stating that it will impose difficulties for the coal mining industry.

The NSWMC yesterday stated that it "will impose significant additional requirements and conditions on coal mining project proposals in NSW".

However the state government says has rejected this stating that not only does" The Strategic Regional Land Use Policy identifies and protects more than 2 million hectares of strategic agricultural land, protects valuable water resources [it also] provides greater certainty for companies wanting to invest in mining and coal seam gas projects in regional NSW".

NSW minister for planning, Brad Hazzard, stated that this new policy will "deliver certainty for the resources industry. 

"Since last year's election, we have been working hard to strike the right balance to protect agricultural land, water, and the environment, and believe this policy achieves that balance," Hazzard said.

The NSWMC has rejected Hazzard's claims, saying that while there was a need for strategic land use plans, there is now growing concern over the impact of more bureaucratic duplication and delays in an already rigorous assessment process.

“This added layer of assessment has the potential to cause delays in project development, making it more difficult for NSW to attract investment. The flow-on effect could impact the state economy including through lost jobs and royalties,” NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said.

“It should also be noted that the area of land classified as 'strategic' has been increased threefold since the draft mapping was first released in March, so much more land will be covered by the new 'gateway' assessment process.

“This new layer of project assessment comes at a time when commodity prices are falling and production and other input costs in Australia are rising."

Hazzard countered this, stating that the Gateway process will provide investment certainty.

A major focus of the policy is on coal seam gas.

Minister for resources and energy, Chris Hartcher, said “we have spent the last 16 months introducing stringent new controls to regulate the industry and have considered feedback from the consultation process before any coal seam gas exploration licences are renewed.”

NSW deputy premier Andrew Stoner added that the creation of a new Land and Water Commissioner to oversee the regulation of exploration activity right across the State, the creation of Regional Community Funds and the removal of the royalty holiday for CSG producers would "restore community confidence in the processes governing CSG exploration and production activities".

Queensland's Rob Katter, Bob Katter's son and the member for Mount Isa, recently tabled a bill to cut the increased green tape and duplication process that the Queensland mining industry faces.

A major focus of the bill is the "streamlining and clarifying [of] information requirements".

It also seeks to combine the single application requirements that previously applied separately to mining and chapter 5A projects.

The bill aims "to ensure that projects are assessed as a whole, rather than separate environmental authorities being applied for and assessed at different times".

It will mainly affect smaller projects, rather than larger scale projects.

"Miners cannot make the best use of the environment when rich natural resources in empty tracts of land are locked away by extremists living thousands of kilometres away in latte land," Katter said.

The NSW policy has created a new Land and Water Commissioner, an Aquifer Interference Policy, the requirement of an Agricultural Impact Statement as part of the assessment of exploration proposals, as well as new Codes of Practice for the coal seam gas (CSG) industry, covering well drilling standards and hydraulic fracturing.