Statement from Australian Gas Protesters

Cross Posted from Green Left

Residents of north-west NSW have united in numbers outside the NSW Community Cabinet being held in Tamworth to expose the Barry O’Farrell government’s broken promises on protecting farmland, water catchments and sensitive environments from coal and gas mining.

Holding a giant banner reading “Barrys Broken Promises: Water Not Coal, Farms Not Gas”, the community held morning tea outside the cabinet meeting with “Farms not Gas” cakes and balloons and “Water Not Coal” T-Shirts.

Premier O’Farrell, resources minister Chris Hartcher and several of their colleagues donned identical red “Water Not Coal” T-Shirts before the last election, when O’Farrell promised to ban coal seam gas (CSG) mining in water catchments. “No ifs, no buts, a guarantee,” he said. This is just one of many broken promises (see the longer list below).

“Barry O’Farrell has turned his back on rural NSW and broken the promises which meant so much to the future of our region,” said David Quince, spokesperson for the Mullaley Gas Pipeline Accord.

“In his ‘Contract with NSW’ on March 16, 2011, Barry O’Farrell said that if he didn’t deliver on his election promises he would be ‘happy to resign’. Well, he certainly hasn’t delivered on his promises to protect our farms and he should now fall on his sword for putting our land and water at risk.

Penny Blatchford of Bellata-Gurley Action Group said: “Our rich black soils near Moree are recognised as part of the Golden Triangle — a fertile area producing quality wheat that we manufacture ourselves into Bellata Gold pasta.

“Our future is now at risk because O’Farrell has released a land use plan containing a flawed gateway process and a non-binding aquifer policy that has no legal force.

“By renewing CSG licences introduced by the previous Labor government, Barry O’Farrell has ignored communities and forever stamped his government as a puppet of the CSG industry.”

Carmel Flint, spokesperson with the Northern Inland Council for the Environment, said: “Maps of priority wildlife habitats were dropped from the final regional land use plans after submissions by the coal and gas lobby, leaving Pilliga and Leard forests open to exploitation.

“Furthermore, just last week we learnt that there is a new petroleum special prospecting application that has been lodged just 11 kilometres west of Tamworth.

“This highlights again the failure of Barry O’Farrell to declare a single hectare of NSW securely off limits to coal or gas mining — leading to massive community uncertainty and disruption.”

Attachment: Barry’s buffet of broken promises

1. Promise“The next Liberal/National government will ensure mining cannot occur in any water catchment area and that any mining leases and exploration permits will reflect that common sense. No ifs, no buts, a guarantee.”(Barry O’Farrell, Rally at Woodbury Park March 2011)

Fact: There is no protection whatsoever for water catchments in the Strategic Regional Land Use Plans or associated policies.

2. Promise“A key part of the strategic land use planning process will be to identify strategic agricultural land and associated water and ensure that it is protected from the impacts of development.” (NSW Liberals and Nationals Strategic Regional Land Use (SRLU) Policy 2011).

Fact: There is nothing in this plan to protect land and water from mining. Strategic Agricultural Land can be approved for mining via a ‘gateway’ process. The mining gateway can NOT say no to mining — it either issues a gateway certificate to proceed or a conditional certificate to proceed. The gateway can never close. The promise to deliver ‘no-go’ zones has been broken.

3. Promise“It will provide certainty to local communities that cumulative impacts are being taken into account,”(NSW Liberals and Nationals SRLU Policy 2011).

Fact: There has been no cumulative impact assessment and the Plan does not require consideration of cumulative impacts before new mines are approved. The Plan only requires the development of a methodology on ‘managing’ cumulative impacts in 2013.

4. Promise“Strategic agricultural land is a finite resource that must be conserved into the future to ensure future food security. It will be identified using a triple bottom line assessment of the environmental, social and economic characteristics of the area.” (NSW Liberals and Nationals SRLU Policy 2011)

Fact: There has been no triple bottom line assessment and no economic assessment of impacts on agriculture. Commitments in the draft Land Use Plan for a public interest test and cost-benefit analyses have been dropped and are now only voluntary for coal and gas companies.

5. Promise“Where CSG activities involve interference with groundwater systems, we will require that proponents must obtain an Aquifer Interference Approval under S91 of the Water Management Act 2000”. (NSW Liberals and Nationals SRLU Policy 2011)

Fact: The entire Aquifer Interference Regulation that was proposed with the first draft has been downgraded to a policy that has no legal standing. No approval is required. The Minister for Primary Industries and the NSW Office of Water have been relegated to a purely advisory role.

6. Promise“Review the Water Management Act 2000, the Water Act 1912, the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 and related legislation to ensure aquifers are protected.” (NSW Liberals and Nationals SRLU Policy 2011)

Fact: There has been no such review and there is no protection for aquifers threatened by mining in NSW.

7. Promise“I can assure the member that we intend to protect all areas of high conservation value through the process that we are developing.” (Minister Hazzard in Parliament, speaking on the Strategic Regional Land Use Policy, 25th November 2011).

Fact: The maps of Tier 1 Biodiversity Areas that were included in the draft Land Use Plans were removed from the final Land Use Plans after complaints from the gas lobby. The final Plans provide no protection for high conservation value areas.

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