Greens, farmers back changes to NSW mining laws

AMENDMENTS to the petroleum onshore and mining acts tabled in the NSW Upper House this week are an improvement on the regulatory framework for farmers and landowners, according to NSW Farmers.

Debate on the amendments, which will make changes to both the acts that govern coal seam gas and mining activity in NSW, has been adjourned until early 2014.

NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said the amendments contained the right for a landholder to have legal representation during an arbitration hearing for land access.

"If the amendments in relation to legal representation are passed, this will be a win for farmers and landowners in a complex system where landholder rights are neither well-known nor utilised," she said.

"There are also provisions that broaden the circumstances in which titleholders are to pay the landholders reasonable legal costs."

This week, the NSW Government also released a Code of Practice for Land Access for public consultation until  December 16. The code will form part of any access agreement to private land for CSG.

Ms Simson said she was pleased the Government had agreed to make the code available for public consultation.

"The introduction of the code is at the centre of changes to the law around CSG operations and is a welcome development," she said.

It contains mandatory provisions on company behaviour on private land and addresses bio-security concerns and requirements for gas companies to provide the landholder with scientific testing results.

Ms Simon said farmers were concerned about the impacts of the CSG industry and without sound science and water data it was impossible to have an informed debate. 

Landholders interested in having their say on the code should visit the Have Your Say website:

Meanwhile, The Greens NSW spokesperson on mining Jeremy Buckingham welcomed the intervention of Premier Barry O'Farrell who introduced legislation to insert a 'public interest test' into the mining and petroleum acts to enhance the power of the minister to cancel or not renew a mining or petroleum licence.

"The mining licences granted under former minister Ian Macdonald and investigated by ICAC will be likely candidates for cancellation; however, the new public interest test will also potentially apply to other licences," he said.

"The current Acts grant the minister a lot of power to grant licences, but lacks substantial powers to undo mistakes or inappropriate grants of licences - so this new and broad public interest test is a very welcome reform."

"It is a pity that the public interest did not seem to be a factor when Resources Minister Chris Hartcher renewed 22 petroleum licences in September 2012.  The almost automatic renewal of licences deeply disturbed many communities who believed the initial grant by Labor was inappropriate."

Topics:  coal seam gas mining nsw farmers the greens