Farmers and graziers are having a hard time adjusting to the fact they are no longer a protected species. Especially difficult for them is that the minerals and natural gas are worth far more than the trivial return from the odd good years for agriculture (they’re in the heavily ENSO-influenced drought alleviated by occasional flood eastern zone).
THE most controversial coal and coal seam gas mining projects could still go ahead despite a negative assessment of their impact on the water table under plans which have escalated the dispute over land use.
The most recent version of the NSW government’s ”aquifer interference policy” was presented to farmers, irrigators and mining and environment groups yesterday by the Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard.
The policy is being developed to alleviate fears about the impacts of coal and coal seam gas mining on aquifers and provide certainty to mining companies.
But the document, obtained by the Herald, confirms ”state significant” mining projects on some of the state’s most sensitive land will be exempt from having to abide by the policy.
The policy indicates this is because mining projects in areas designated by the government as ”strategic lands” due to their high agricultural or environmental value will pass through a strict ”gateway” process and be subject to advice based on the policy from the Water Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson.
However, government officials confirmed to stakeholders at the meeting that Ms Hodgkinson’s advice will not be binding on the decision of the independent Planning and Assessment Commission, which assesses applications for state significant mining development.
The president of the NSW Farmers Association, Fiona Simson, said that because the bulk of mining and coal seam projects were deemed state significant, those the farmers most wished to be subject to the policy would be exempt.