FARMS across New South Wales will be opened up to coal seam gas mining as a result of a draft Code of Practice for Land Access released by the Government last night, according to The Greens.
Greens mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said the failure of the government to remove compulsory arbitration provisions in the Act meant mining companies could force their way onto private land.
"The broadening of the permit system dodges the need for even an exploration licence or land access agreement to conduct exploration activities," he said.
"The Government has failed to enact the right for farmers and other landholders to say no to coal seam gas exploration on their land, despite both Prime Minister Abbott and federal Resources Minister Macfarlane explicitly supporting landholders right to say 'no'.
"The permit system introduced in this bill allows private mining contractors to access land for 'geological survey purposes' without an exploration licence or a land access agreement. This is a back door for gas exploration that undermines other regulations.
"The draft Code of Practice is simplistic and weak, defining only very basic access issues and providing little power for the landholder to stipulate the conditions of access. It is hard to believe it has taken so long to draft something that is so scarce in detail.
"Without granting the power to landholders to veto exploration on mining on their land, this Code of Practice is simply a recipe for the coal seam gas industry to force its way onto farmland around NSW.
"The Greens will move amendments to the Petroleum (Onshore) Act to remove compulsory arbitration, which will effectively give landholders the right to say no. We hope that stakeholders and the broader community will support enshrining this important and fundamental right into the law.
"We are concerned that only the draft Code of Practice has been put out to public consultation, while crucial amendments to the Petroleum Act have no formal consultation process. This is an exercise in distraction."