The Land NSWFA View Changes a step forward

The Land Newspaper
NSW Farmers View
21 November 2013

Fiona Simson - President

NSW Parliament this week tabled amendments in the Upper House to the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, the legislation governing CSG activity in NSW. NSW Farmers has been involved in talks, along with other stakeholders, with the NSW Land and Water Commissioner for some time regarding some, but not all, of the amendments contemplated in this Bill. Our involvement in these talks has not been a secret. We have advised our members of our presence at these talks on numerous occasions. We have also been working with our Conservation and Resource Management Committee, the elected representatives of our association that give guidance and feedback in these areas. 
 
There are two major parts to these most recent changes, which are both now in the public domain. Firstly, the Code of Practice for Land Access is on public exhibition. This Code contains mandatory provision for any access agreement between a private land holder and a CSG company. NSW Farmers has always expressed a strong view that CSG activities need to be underpinned by solid science and an extensive baseline testing regime and the Code goes a significant way towards this.
 
The second part of these recent changes take the form of amendments to the Act which includes a provision allowing a landholder to be legally represented at arbitration for land access, as well as increased penalties for company breaches of title and the Act.  If passed, NSW Farmers believes that these changes will be a significant step forward and we are proud of our work in this space.
 
Whilst we feel that these amendments are headed in the right direction, there is an acknowledgement that much more work needs to be done. We will continue to fight for policy changes in this space that strengthen landholder rights and place farmers in a better position than what they find themselves currently. NSW Farmers is not against CSG activity but believes that these industries must be developed using rigorous and thorough scientific evidence, and not ever at the expense of our precious agricultural land. This always has been, and remains, our solid position.
 
The Code is positive for landholders. Without it, we continue with the status quo, which is obviously hopelessly inadequate. On the matter of the further amendments to the Act, NSW Farmers will continue to advocate for a number of other improvements and we also look forward to a promised future review of the Act. We encourage all groups and individuals with an interest in this area to have their say as well.

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