In fact it isn’t a slur to call the farming lobby virtually irrelevant in the coal seam gas extraction ‘debate’ because they are. In Australia the Crown owns mineral rights, not landholders and regardless of whether farmers lease grazing rights on surveyed government roads they have no rights to lock gates or prevent access to holders of mineral claims.
The NSW Farmers Association says it’s shocked the state’s planning minister has labelled the lobby group as “almost irrelevant” to consultation on coal seam gas development, saying the government has not listened to them.
The farmers’ group will hold a protest outside state parliament in Sydney on Tuesday, which it says will attract thousands of people angry about the government’s approach to controversial coal seam gas exploration.
Farmers and environmentalists are upset at the O’Farrell government’s draft regional land use plan, which classified one million hectares of the New England North West and 400,000 hectares of the Upper Hunter as high-value agricultural land.
But major mining and exploration – including coal seam gas proposals – will not be banned in areas set aside as prime agricultural land.
The farmers association said the government had failed to deliver on its election commitment to protect land and water resources by quarantining some areas from mining, saying the draft plan “pulled up short on delivery”.
Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has accused farmers of an “unusual game of simply trying to stop anything”.
“I think that is particularly unproductive, and it’s reaching the stage where the farmers are becoming, through their association, almost irrelevant to the process,” Mr Hazzard told ABC Radio.