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Transparency: gas companies need to communicate

NSW Farmers is not opposed to coal seam gas activity in NSW. Rather, we insist that gas found in coal seams is produced with caution and not at the expense of our agricultural land and water.

CSG is a relatively new industry in NSW.

The long-term effects of CSG extraction on land and water is largely unknown.

For this reason, NSW Farmers insists on the application of the "precautionary principle", which means where a threat of serious or irreversible damage and scientific uncertainty both exist, proportionate precautionary measures should be taken to avert the anticipated threat.

Data collection and transparency to the community is a key component, along with the application of the best available science.

Currently, it is extremely difficult for landholders to obtain information on water and soil testing, let alone aquifer monitoring.

Agriculture and many rural communities rely on precious groundwater resources, which they simply cannot afford to place at risk.

Many CSG companies will claim the testing results are "commercial in confidence". NSW Farmers completely rejects this. If these companies want a social licence to operate in NSW, they've got to start communicating their science - and fast.

Landholders and communities need to understand the process and it needs to be an honest and transparent practice.

There have been improvements when it comes to CSG policy in NSW. However we still have a long way to go.

NSW Farmers supports some of the latest developments to the Strategic Regional Land Use Policy.

However, we argue that the BSAL (Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land) classification criteria are overly narrow as the criteria have not been applied to capture a vast amount of our highly productive agricultural land.

Additionally, BSAL classification will only mean a project has to pass through the Gateway Project, which has no ability to stop development in potentially inappropriate areas.

CIC (critical industry clusters) are a generally welcome concept in ruling out certain sensitive areas of land for CSG activity, but the application is extremely disappointing, with only two "clusters" having been identified - horse studs and vineyards in the Upper Hunter. We are lobbying for the expansion of the application of BSAL criteria and CIC status.

- NSW FARMERS ASSOCIATION

Topics:  coal seam gas environment mining nsw farmers