New South Wales farmers are stepping up their campaign for better protections against Coal Seam Gas mining, with calls for property owners to be granted the “right to veto” mining access.
In its submission to a NSW parliamentary inquiry into CSG, NSW Farmers says property owners must have the legal right to say “no” to mineral and petroleum explorers seeking access to their land.
Conflict between miners and farmers over land use and impact issues has always existed in Australia under laws that grant farmers ownership of the land above but not over what lies below.
The Government owns Australia’s mineral and gas resources and grants rights to resources companies to mine them, in return for paying royalties back to the Government.
In most states property owners are legally forced to give access to mining companies and can be taken to arbitration or to court for refusing.
Landholders can negotiate compensation, but given that mining companies know they are guaranteed access under the law, farmers have little to no bargaining power in negotiations.
NSW Farmers Association president Fiona Simson said Western Australia already gave property owners the legal right to veto mining access and believes NSW should follow suit.
“Allowing property owners to say no isn’t about denying access at all, it’s about restoring the balance in the relationship that pits landholders against multinational corporations,” she said.
NSW Farmers also wants the NSW Valuer General to urgently commission an independent study into the impacts of CSG exploration and production on property values.
“This would provide a baseline to help property owners seek compensation where devaluation occurs,” Ms Simson said.
The NSW inquiry into CSG will conduct public hearings at the following centres: Lismore 21 September; Taree 31 October; Narrabri 16 November; Sydney 17 November and 9 December and Bowral – 8 December 2011.
Ms Simson said NSW farmers was urging members to lodge submissions to the inquiry.
“NSW Farmers is not opposed to CSG, or mining for that matter. If developed responsibly and regulated more appropriately, we believe both these industries can play a role in generating jobs and income for the State.