NSW FARMERS will do everything in its power to protect the state’s food bowl from new mines and coal-seam gas exploration, according to the organisation’s president and Liverpool Plains grower Xavier Martin.
The statement comes in response to this week’s National Press Club address from Woodside chief executive officer Meg O’Neill, who spoke about “a vocal minority” that was pitted against the Australian gas industry, and recent approvals for new non-Woodside projects.
“They have deep pockets and are using both protest action and the courts to create uncertainty and destabilise regulatory processes to frustrate both existing and new projects,” Ms O’Neill said in her address.
NSW Farmers has taken that comment to be aimed at NSW primary producers opposed to developments, as well as activists.
Mr Martin said approvals granted for new mines and coal-seam gas exploration within the the state’s food bowls were of concern.
“The McPhillamy’s Gold Mine at Blayney will include an open-cut pit and tailings storage at the source of the Belubula River, along with a 90km pipeline to send excess water to a coal mine near Lithgow,” Mr Martin said.
“Another disruptive mine that would produce silver, zinc and lead was approved for Lue, about 30km outside Mudgee, while the NSW Resources Regulator approved the reactivation of legacy coal-seam gas wells near Gunnedah during the caretaker period before the state election.”
Regis Resources is developing the McPhillamys project, while Bowdens Silver is behind the project at Lue, and Santos is active on coal-seam gas on the Liverpool Plains.
Mr Martin said these approvals, along with sections of Ms O’Neill’s NPC address, were proof that a strong independent agriculture commissioner was urgently needed for NSW
“Woodside made a $5 billion profit last year and helped release more than 60 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, and they want free rein to do more.
“They talk about ‘decarbonisation commitments’ and ‘keeping the lights on in Asian megacities’, but the truth is this is all about money for them, and farmers and rural communities are in the firing line.”
Deep concern from farmers
Mr Martin said farmers were deeply concerned about new mines and CSG operations that would not only disrupt food and fibre production, but also endanger town and farm water security when the next drought arrived.
“We are losing productive agricultural land to industrialisation, and this is one of the reasons we have long called for a truly independent agriculture commissioner who can make our planning laws fit for purpose.
“As long as we’ve got the big end of town throwing around money and spin while manipulating the process as they try to dig up the state’s best farmland, we will continue to speak out.
“If the Woodside CEO really wants to see farmer activism in practice, perhaps a tractor blockade of their head office is in order.”
One of NSW Labor’s election promises was to deliver a truly independent agriculture commissioner if elected, and Mr Martin said it was vital this role had the power and responsibility to call out the risk to food and fibre production from these sorts of projects.
“We’re talking about the state’s great food-producing regions here, and farmers must be able to care for the land and water free of industrial interference, not only to secure food supply, but also Australia’s economic prosperity into the future,” he said.
Primary source: NSW Farmers
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