UPDATED: NSW Farmers has taken a strong stance on mining and gas, adopting a new resources policy to ban extractive industries in areas covered by Water Sharing Plans until nil negative impact can be demonstrated.
The new policy, voted in at the Association's annual conference at Luna Park in Sydney will cover NSW’s mining heartland in the Hunter Valley.
Gas and coal fuelled a debate which dominated the best part of the conference’s first afternoon.
Currently, NSW Farmers is “not opposed to mining or coal seam gas” but advocates that “these resources must be developed strategically and not at the expense of our agricultural land and water”.
A significant amount of starch has now been added to the stance on CSG: “All coal mining, CSG… with the potential to impact on groundwater aquifers and recharge areas, where a Water Sharing Plan exists… be immediately suspended until proof of nil negative impact is proven and any impacts on quality and quantity are rectified”.
However, the mining lobby said the new policy would hit regional towns and that their impacts on water were already regulated by effective legislation.
"Given water sharing plans cover the vast majority of the State, if this policy was implemented it would bring the mining industry in NSW to a stop and have significant ramifications for the regional towns that depend upon it," a spokesman for the NSW Minerals Council said.
"Our miners are responsible water users and the industry is heavily regulated. Miners are subject to the same water licensing rules as farmers and every mining proposal undergoes a rigorous, independent assessment of its potential impacts."
The new policy was preceded by an unsuccessful proposal from the Coonamble district, namely that the association adopt a policy of total opposition to all coal seam gas across the entire State.
Executive councillor Tom Cullen proposed the motion, stating that 98 per cent of members in his district are opposed to CSG.
“There’s no more pussy-footing around on this issue,” he said.
“We don’t want CSG. Our members spoke on this and they just don’t want it.”
Many attendees sympathised with the sentiment of the motion, but several argued that a blanket ban went too far.
Grains committee member Mark Hoskinson spoke against the motion.
“(The) NSW Farmers association covers the whole State, but only some areas will be directly affected by CSG,” he said.
Conservation and resource management committee chairman Mitchell Clapham also spoke against the ban.
“We have got to realise how far reaching this is,” Mr Clapham said.
He said by adopting the position, NSW Farmers would greatly reduce its opportunity to effectively lobby government on important points of regulation and management of CSG.
Although the blanket coal and CSG ban was knocked on the head, a successful proposition from Wee Waa council signals a major policy shift.
Boggabri district council successfully argued for the precautionary principal to be adopted in development of all extractive industries.
A range other motions were passed around CSG – centring on policies which bolster remuneration for affected landholders and make public liability insurance compulsory for mining and CSG proponents.
Narrabri district council’s Matthew Norrie successfully argued for a policy requiring comprehensive and independent baseline water and soil studies to be undertaken before mining and CSG activities.